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Coaching paths cross for father and son, Jim and Jeremiah Washburn

Posted Jul 1, 2013

Coaching alongside one another was never a goal for the Washburns, but it's something they've fully embraced heading into the 2013 season

Family roots run deep in the NFL coaching world, and it's not uncommon to see brothers, fathers and sons on one of the 32 coaching rosters in the league ... and in some cases, the same one.

Take Jeremiah Washburn, and his dad, Jim Washburn, for example.

After serving as the Lions' assistant offensive line coach for four years, Jeremiah was promoted to offensive line coach following the 2012 season.

Jeremiah Washburn and Larry WarfordJeremiah Washburn with G Larry Warford

Shortly thereafter, Jim was brought on to the team's coaching staff carrying over 35 years of coaching experience, as the assistant defensive line coach and pass rush specialist.

The situation seems nostalgic, but in reality, it wasn't something either strived for as they climbed the coaching ranks, each on their own accord.

Or at least, it wasn't something they strived for at first.

"We didn't want to be on the same coaching staff," said Jim. "I didn't want to be with him when he was the assistant offensive line coach, I didn't want that. Once he became 'the guy', I changed my mind. I just didn't want anyone to think that I helped him get ahead.

"Now, it's awesome -- for me -- from a father's perspective. I helped him get up to the plate, but I didn't swing the bat for him."

Jeremiah developed a love for the game at an early age and, as he puts it, football is in his blood -- in his family's blood -- but becoming a coach wasn't always what he aspired for.

In fact, both parents tried to steer him away from the profession.

But Jeremiah spent a lot of time around his dad as he coached, and he was always involved with football in some capacity, especially once he got to middle school.

So after a short time, it was pretty clear that coaching was in his future.

"The biggest thing that made an impact with me, was this: my dad got into some trouble in the late eighties, early nineties and was out of coaching," said Jeremiah.

"He kept me around him all the time, and I was around some bad jobs, for about two or three years I was with him all the time.

"I developed that true love for the game because that's bare bones football. I learned a lot about the game and that's what led me into coaching. That time of my life with Dad, especially when he was at his lowest point, I was there with him."

After 23 years of coaching at the collegiate and minor league level, Jim entered the NFL in 1999, as the defensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans.

In the relatively small world of coaching, it just so happened that Jim Schwartz also took a job as a defensive assistant for the Titans the very same week.

"When I first got the job in Tennessee, and worked with (Jim) Schwartz, he was just a quality control guy making $40,000 a year," said Jim.

"When we both took our jobs, Jeremiah drove up from Arkansas, where he was a senior, to stay for a couple of nights with me. So we all went out for pizza, and he and Jim hit it off."

Jeremiah went on to be a graduate assistant at Arkansas, football operations assistant for the Carolina Panthers, and an area scout and player personnel assistant for the Baltimore Ravens prior to coming to Detroit.

But it was that night, 14 years ago, that a young quality control coach in Schwartz prophesied the current coaching staff.

"He said that night, 'I'm going to hire you when I'm a head coach,'" said Jeremiah. "He knew it would happen and he followed through on that. He called me the night he got hired as the head coach here."

Jim recalls having only one thought that night, "Yeah right he will, he's a quality control guy."

But the relationship they built over the following seasons together in Tennessee led to where he and Jeremiah are today, next to one another, under Schwartz and along with a group of coaches, nearly all of which, Jim has worked with in some capacity over the years.

"It's funny, the relationships on this staff, especially with my dad being here now," said Jeremiah. "He's worked with Gunther (Cunningham), Matt Burke, Marcus Robertson, Steve Jackson, Kris Kocurek, Jim, myself – it's really been neat, the staff dynamic."

Jim WashburnJim Washburn with DE Ziggy Ansah

And possibly the most interesting dynamic is that between Jeremiah and Jim, father and son, overseeing the big guys who line-up from one another every day in practice.

It's a relationship they've found to be mutually beneficial, and yet somehow, they don't find it hard to hold back criticism and critique for one another. There's a high level of respect there.

"We've had Mom and Dad over quite a bit and it's been great for our whole family, it really has," said Jeremiah. "My mom and my wife Susan have gotten used to the conversation turning to football at some point. It just does. It's what we do.

"It's been really helpful from an offensive line standpoint, just to talk about what we're doing and help in that regard. It's been great, especially for me, as a young coach, to be able to talk to him and Kris. They've been helpful with our whole group."

Now heading into the 2013 season, both Jim and Jeremiah will for the first time be a part of the same team.

And where that's something in the past neither would have felt good about, now it's pretty amazing.

Both look forward to standing on the same sideline this time around, with a team that they feel really good about.

"I'm excited about this team. We have really good players. I mean, we really do," said Jim. "We have good players, we have good coaches. I know good and I know bad. It's good right now."

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