It was a special moment for John Shuman, so one could understand why Fork Union’s newly-minted athletic director was both moved to tears and fired up enough to get into a boxer’s stance at the same time as he announced the Blue Devils’ new head football coaches Tuesday.
“When you do something for 38 years and you get an opportunity to do something else,” Shuman said referencing his move to athletic director. “Yeah, it was an accumulation moment I would say. It was special.”
The long-time postgraduate football coach who recently shifted to become the school’s athletic director introduced one of his sons, Mark Shuman, as the new prep football coach for the Blue Devils while also introducing his own replacement Frank Arritt — his longtime assistant that Shuman called a “third son” — who takes over the postgraduate program. Turning the football programs over to a pair of Fork Union graduates represented a wholesale changing of the guard for the Blue Devils.
“It’s always been a dream, that’s why I came back to Fork Union was to start coaching and when the word was out that coach Hooper was retiring I jumped on it and put my name in,” said Mark Shuman. “I’m happy to be in this position, I’m honored to be in that position.”
Shuman follows Mike Hooper, who took over from Brian Hurlocker who replaced Shuman’s Micky Sullivan, the longtime coach who won 200 games and retired from the prep job in 2012 to become athletic director before retiring from that position in 2016. Shuman was part of one of the finest offensive line groups in local history with three Division I signees — Shuman, Russell Bodine and Skyler Allen — on a unit that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. Shuman suffered a trio of meniscus tears while at Tech, limiting his production and forcing him to retire in 2014.
Shuman joins a growing fraternity of former Virginia Tech football players that are filling up the high school coaching ranks in Virginia. Two of them, Manchester’s Joe Hall and Highland Springs’ Loren Johnson won state championships this year in the VHSL’s Class 5 and 6. Shuman’s brother Ryan Shuman is the director of strength and conditioning for the Hokies.
Shuman returned to Fork Union in 2016 to work in the Commandants Department. Being ingrained in life at the Academy beyond football where he was first a prep assistant before moving to the postgraduate squad this year should give him a unique opportunity to connect with cadets.
“Being a TAC officer is being a mentor, a teacher, an advisor and a coach for the military department,” Shuman said. “I think that’s going to help me tremendously, it gives me a chance to know every kid here.”
Arritt takes over for John Shuman after 13 years as Shuman’s assistant. He also stepped in to run the school’s newly-founded Summer Youth Football Camp last year and is the head of the academy’s Social Studies department. Arritt, who taught the younger Shuman when he was a student at FUMA, played his college football at Arkansas State and should be able to work hand-in-hand with Shuman to give the broader football program an injection of youth and energy. Clearly he has the stamp of approval from Shuman, who’s enjoyed incredible success running the nation’s premier postgraduate football program, responsible in large part for the 117 NFL players and 12 first round draft picks who’ve come through the school’s football programs.
“Coach Shuman has been a mentor to me from day one of meeting him,” Arritt said. “It’s a great honor to be following him and I just want to make sure that I’m continuing his legacy the right way. It’s an added benefit that he didn’t retire from the school, I can run up here and hit him up with a couple of questions.”
The trio of both Shumans and Arritt have some ambitious plans to bring in new student athletes and mine the Canadian pipeline they’ve built that produced NFL offensive tackle Austin Pasztor and that has trickled into other schools across the state. They’re already building toward the postgrad programs usual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day combine.