Many players dream of playing for their parent’s alma mater. However, not many get to play while their father is a position coach at said alma mater.
If you feel like you’ve been seeing double for the past four years, don’t worry, you have. Sharrieff Shah Jr. is of course the son of Sharrieff Shah, a prolific Utah defensive back in the 1990's, who returned to his old stomping grounds to coach up the cornerbacks. When presented with the chance to continue his family legacy, Jr. saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Shah Jr. started his playing career at Utah State in 2012. In 2013, he made the move to Utah to pursue an ambition he’s had since he was a little kid - being a Ute just like his dad. “I grew up a Ute, wanted to play as a Ute so seeing my dad everyday on the field is a blessing, and it’s also harder because he notices everything,” he said with a chuckle. “He doesn’t hesitate to comment on my mistakes or when I do well.”
Being able to share his college experience with his father is something Shah Jr. says is an amazing blessing. “I grew up watching his old tapes, his old highlights. Seeing him fly around in the red uniform and drum and feather on his helmet,” Shah Jr. said. “It was always a dream of mine - just being able to do some of the things he’s done and some of the things he hasn’t done has been a blessing.”
Naturally, people like to make comparisons of the two despite the fact that they play two different positions. as Shah Jr. plays linebacker. But Shah sees those comparisons as an honor. “We are our own people, but people always draw comparisons,” he said. “People see me make a tackle and they like to relate it back to when [my dad] played. I think it was a little better than when he played. (Don’t let him know I said that.) I love being compared to him. He was an amazing football player, amazing father, amazing coach.”
One area where there is no denying the similarities between father and son is the dedication to excellence in the classroom. Senior was a very successful medical malpractice attorney before he hung it up and returned to football as a coach. Shah Jr. has his own thing he is working towards, but it still demands the same level of due diligence his father had to display years ago.
“I plan to attend medical school,” he said proudly. “Not sure at what university yet. It’s still a long process but I plan on going to medical school and becoming a surgeon. I’m not sure what specialty yet. I was thinking reconstructive plastic surgery. I’m excited for that.”
“Growing up my dad, he told me when I was little, he said that I had to be better than him because that’s just the way it works,” Shah Jr. continued. “You have to be better than the people who were here before you. The only thing I could think of that was better than a lawyer was a doctor. Ever since I was little I aspired to be that.”
And while Shah Jr. has a ways to go yet with his school career, his time with football is drawing short. But he feels confident he and his teammates will excel. “Oh man, it went by fast,” he said of his time at Utah. “I just continue to work hard and I know we can go out the right way this last season.”
Shah Jr.’s favorite game as a Ute was the 2015 smack down of Oregon at Autzen Stadium, but more important to him has been having his family with him for the ride. “Off the field, being able to see my parents at all the games,” he said. “Of course my father on the sidelines and my mother in the stands with my little brother wearing the same jersey number as me.”
Having a younger brother that looks up to him in that way is extra motivation for Shah Jr. to keep grinding and become better every day in all facets of his life. “It’s awesome. It pushes me to try and be better in all aspects because I know he will try to be just like me and I know that one day he will be better than me as I strive to be better than my father,” he said. “Having a younger brother just pushes me to be better on and off the field.”
To be that better person, Shah Jr. says it’s just a matter of working hard; a trait instilled in him long ago by his father. “[Don’t] worry about outside things,” he said. “Keep your head down and just work. Control what you can control on and off the field and good things will happen.”
So far those ideals have worked out for Shah Jr. and he hopes it’s something fans will remember about him long after he’s gone. “I love this sport,” he said. “I’ve been doing it- shoot- I think like a year before I was supposed to. Coach Ron McBride snuck me out here to the football camps and put a helmet on. I love this game. Every play that I’m in I have a lot of heart in it.”