From player to coach: Shawn Elliott talks football

Head Football Coach Shawn Elliot reviews his new coaching staff picks. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

Shawn Elliott is drenched in sweat. His Georgia State squad has just finished up a key training session in the heat of Georgia “fall,” as they prepare for the Homecoming game against Arkansas State. 

Prior to taking over as the Georgia State head football coach in 2016, Elliott built quite the resume around the sport he’s had a love affair with for most of his life.

From leading Georgia State to its first bowl victory in 2017, to this season’s shock victory over the Tennessee Volunteers, Elliott has been at the forefront of some of the program’s proudest moments in recent history.

So, what goes into the role of a college football coach? How did he come to find himself as the head football coach of the Panthers? And most importantly, what is Elliott like off the field? 

“Georgia State is a special place, to tell you the truth,” Elliott said. “What makes it so special is the people you work for, the people you work with and, of course, the players that you are around every single day.”

As the head coach, it is Elliott’s job to ensure his players are mentally and physically prepared to take on their opponents. For Elliott, preparation is key.

“It is all about preparation and making sure you can reach the individuals you are coaching,” he said. “I think it is often overlooked.”

The job is one that Elliott holds in a special place in his heart.

“It is a phenomenal job,” he said. “It is something that I cherish every single day and am very fortunate to be able to do.”

Sit down with Coach Shawn Elliot and learn about his career as head coach of Georgia State Football. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Elliott has has a long history with football. Before arriving at Georgia State, he was a four-year letterman as a defensive end for the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Elliott was the co-captain of the 1995 Mountaineers team that finished 12-1. 

“If you take advantage of the coaching that you get and are influenced by the coaches that you have, it pays a huge dividend [in becoming a head coach],” Elliott said. “I was very fortunate to be coached in college by Jerry Moore. Coach Moore is in the College Football Hall of Fame now.”

After graduating from Appalachian State in 1996, Elliott immediately landed a coaching position at his alma mater. He began as a defensive assistant in 1997 and later took over the offensive line coach position in 2001. 

It was at Appalachian State where Elliott says he made one of his best memories throughout his time in the sport.

“My wife went into labor when I was coaching a game,” Elliott said. “I actually had to leave the ballgame in the middle of the third quarter because my daughter was being born. It was so funny because it was being televised by ESPNU. Our associate [athletic director] at that time walked up to me and said, ‘Hey coach, I’ve missed eight calls. You might want to call your wife.’ I bolted out of there and we were fortunate enough to be up by a pretty good margin and [ESPNU] televised the entire thing. They were like, ‘There goes Coach Elliott. His daughter is fixing to be born and he is running off the sidelines.’ So, that’s probably the fondest memory I have.”  

During his 13 seasons at Appalachian State, Elliott helped lead the team to 10 NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances, including three consecutive championships from 2005-2007. 

His accomplishments landed him a position at the University of South Carolina, where he began working under the legendary Steve Spurrier. Elliott began coaching the offensive line and coordinating the running game in 2010 and 2011, before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2012.

“[Working with Spurrier] was just unbelievable,” Elliott said. “It was kind of like working with Jerry Moore. Coach Spurrier was really spontaneous. He enjoyed the game of football and was probably the most competitive man I’ve ever been around.” 

During his time at South Carolina, Elliott gained plenty of SEC experience, something he used to his advantage earlier this season, when he helped guide the Panthers to what was arguably the program’s most historic win against the Tennessee Volunteers at the historic Neyland Stadium.

“That is going to be looked upon as a special win for many, many years to come,” Elliott said. “The fact that we believed and executed and came out of there with a victory against a storied program like Tennessee, it was a great feeling.”

When Spurrier retired from football in 2015, Elliott had the chance to step in as the Gamecocks’ interim head coach. He finished up with a record of 1-5 and lost the permanent job to Will Muschamp, who remains the head coach to this day.

The rest is history. Elliott, as aforementioned, accepted the head coaching position at Georgia State in 2017 and made his mark straight away.

His first season as the Panthers’ head coach saw the team finish with a school-record seven wins and a shiny piece of silverware, the AutoNation Cure Bowl. 

Off the field, Elliott enjoys nothing more than spending time with his family. Whenever he can find the time, chances are he is relaxing and living his life on the water.

“I have a wife and two beautiful kids. They are eleven and thirteen,” Elliott said. “We spend most of our time on the water. We are either in a boat or on a beach. We love it to death. If I am not coaching football, I want to be doing something outside around the water.”

For Elliott, the Charleston area is a favorite destination.

“Being from South Carolina, I love the Charleston area,” he said. “I am there every chance I get and we love to travel in the boat and get to go see things you don’t see every single day, whether it be the marine life or just the sunset. There is just something about the sun and the water that really just makes me crazy.”