It’s been a long road, and sometimes a difficult one, for the senior quarterback, who is the state’s top football recruit this season.
On a rare quiet Saturday morning, Jacob Sirmon and his family had time to laugh about the past. Those early days when Bothell’s starting quarterback was just learning the game that would make him the top prospect in Washington this year.
It all began with the “woodchopper” throw. Then there was the “circle” and “spike.” Self-explanatory arm motions to release the football that a fourth-grade Jacob was taught by his father David in their backyard in Texas.
Only problem was it was all wrong.
“I want to be careful putting any blame on parents, it’s a hard position to coach,” said Will Hewlett, one of Jacob’s first trained quarterback coaches. “There were some things that were a little out of whack. Jacob was strong, so he could overcome a lot of it early on. But when you project out a player at the highest level, everyone is good, so you’ve got to be superior as a thrower.”
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David laughed at the early “hiccups” in coaching his son. A former college linebacker, he was learning alongside Jacob about how to play quarterback.
“The amazing thing is he was still throwing well even though I was telling him the wrong way to do it,” David said.
At Jacob’s first football camp at Texas A&M, during a throwing contest, he tossed it 39 yards to win a plaque and handshake from then-coach Mike Sherman. What followed was an onslaught the Sirmons are still navigating.
College recruitment, social-media critics, self-doubt and setbacks all shaped Jacob, who is no longer a slim kid with a powerful arm. Jacob has grown into a 6-foot-4, 230-pound pocket passer ready to play out his senior season, which began Wednesday as high-school football practices opened around the state, and enroll at Washington as a possible successor to quarterback Jake Browning.
“He’s physically imposing now,” said Hewlett, who has NFL quarterback Trevor Siemian on his roster of players he trained as youths. He worked with Sirmon in July after a year’s absence. “It’s crazy. And stuff is starting to click for Jacob now.”
Born to play
It’s no surprise Jacob plays football. It’s the family business, with all five of his uncles, both grandparents and father having played college ball while cousin Jack, a senior linebacker, will play at UW with Jacob.
Peter Sirmon, Jack’s father, was the most successful. He played seven seasons at linebacker for the Tennessee Titans and is the defensive coordinator at Louisville, his third stop since coaching UW’s linebackers in 2012 and 2013.
David had the best college experience. He was a starter for Montana when it won the 1995 Football Championship Subdivision title. The Grizzlies also played in the 1996 championship game, losing to Randy Moss-led Marshall.
“(College) has always been an expectation of mine but not a pressure,” Jacob said. “At family reunions, we’re sitting around talking about football. It’s something I’ve always been exposed to and never thought anything different of it.”
“And” is a keyword in David Sirmon’s household. The oldest of five siblings, Jacob was going to play football and have other interests. That came easily for Jacob, who’s also a talented artist like his parents.
David, who’s a professor at UW, crafted all of the shaker-style woodwork in their two-story Bothell home, including the six bed frames. His wife Robyn’s paintings dot the walls. Jacob dabbles in sketching and steelwork, welding nuts and bolts together to make figurines of his father proposing to his mother in honor of their 20th wedding anniversary last spring.
“He also loves reading,” Robyn said of Jacob’s interest in sci-fi. “That used to be the most effective punishment, taking away his book. … Secretly, as a parent, that’s the best feeling in the world — knowing that he’s going to be fine. He’ll figure out his way. He always does.”
Always been UW
The internet is the hardest part to being a modern-day quarterback.
In an era where more than half of the American population owns a smartphone, Jacob felt bombarded with everyone’s opinion as an underclassman.
He popped up on the college-recruiting radar as a seventh-grader, passing for 2,135 yards with 35 touchdowns and four interceptions. Despite being born in Idaho, living in five other states as his father pursued a doctorate and teaching positions, Jacob has always had an affinity for UW — despite his dad wanting him to play at Montana.
UW was Jacob’s first scholarship offer as a sophomore, and he committed in December 2015.
But that only intensified skepticism about his talent and focus. Why hasn’t he won a state championship if he’s so good? Does Jacob care about Bothell when he already has plans to graduate early to enroll at UW and start his college career?
“I used to worry about all of these random things people would say on Twitter,” he said. “It affected me. I’d think maybe he’s right or maybe I should change this. My sophomore year was the worst. You question yourself.”
Even as Jacob spoke, a web story posted that he was considering USC. He returned from Los Angeles the prior night, relaxing Saturday with his only responsibility being laundry. The trip was actually to train with 3DQB, a quarterback training that focuses on biomechanics, as a final tuneup for the high-school season.
“It’s funny how these reliable sources get all of this weird information,” Jacob said, his sister Ellie and brother Andrew laughing. They also attend Bothell, Ellie a junior on the volleyball team while Andrew is a freshman quarterback.
One Twitter post Sirmon spotted was true: Quarterback Colson Yankoff committed to Washington in March. Idaho’s Gatorade Player of the Year last season, Yankoff passed for 3,129 yards with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 968 yards and 26 touchdowns.
UW coach Chris Petersen and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith met with Sirmon after news broke to talk about the revised plan.
“It was a little bit of a letdown. I thought I was going to be the star of the show,” said Sirmon, who roomed with Yankoff at a quarterback camp in June. “My parents helped with perspective, and it’s not about me. I want UW to be the best program, (and) if that means they need another quarterback, I’m all for it. I feel confident that I’m going to do everything I can to win that starting job. So, I’m not concerned about that at all. Colson’s a good guy.”
Back to work
Sirmon is more concerned about Bothell’s season and showing off all the training he’s done this summer. Even with travel to work with a bevy of private quarterback coaches and attend camps, he didn’t miss the scheduled lifting with his Bothell teammates.
Most Wednesdays during the summer, the players bonded over rounds of disc golf at Blyth Park. It was Sirmon’s idea, using his family’s equipment.
“It takes a mature teammate to understand the level of effort that Jacob has put in outside of Bothell High School that in turn will benefit us,” Cougars coach Tom Bainter said. “Sometimes a teammate can see that as his focus is more on Washington. But no, the purpose is still the same. And Jacob’s teammates this year have a much better understanding of that than his teammates in the past.”
The Cougars (9-3) advanced to the Class 4A state quarterfinals last year. Sirmon passed for 2,498 yards with just two interceptions.
Bothell returns two starting receivers in seniors DaVicious Wilson and Ryder Locknane, who helped Bothell win Lakewood’s 7-on-7 tournament in July. Bainter also pegged junior Riley Morrison as a target in the Cougars’ potent offense.
The season starts with the heated rivalry matchup against Woodinville, the defending KingCo champs, at Pop Keeney Stadium on Sept. 1. The Cougars have yet to defeat the Falcons with Sirmon under center.
“I don’t feel a personal attack on myself because we win or lose a rivalry game, and in the past I would have thought that,” said Sirmon, who turned 18 in May. “Everything has been leading up to this, an incredible journey of maturing and becoming the man I am today. I want to carry myself in a way that people can follow, and it’s going to be fun to see the results.”