It was apparent early on that Mike Bobo would be a pretty good quarterback.
His father George Bobo, a longtime high school football coach, could see that from an early age. What George also noticed was that Mike had what it took to one day become a pretty good coach.
When George, the head coach of Thomasville from 1990-93 would study film, Mike, his first-string quarterback, would analyze the tape right beside him and offer his own input. The kind of football acumen displayed was only the start of what would be a long college football coaching career for the younger Bobo.
“He knew what was going on,” George said. “He used to come in and sit on Sunday night when we were breaking down stuff, and I would say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ He would say, ‘But Dad, we can do this, too.’ He had the ability to be able to see things on the field. When he was in second grade, he was riding the bus to football games. That’s all he’d ever been around. That’s all he wanted to do.”
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Mike Bobo, after 14 years as an assistant at his alma mater Georgia, became Colorado State’s head coach prior to the 2015 season. A season later, two other colleagues who grew up near Thomasville joined Bobo as FBS head coaches: Georgia’s Kirby Smart, who spent nine years on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff, and Georgia Southern’s Tyson Summers, who was Bobo’s defensive coordinator at Colorado State in 2015.
All three coaches have plenty of common. Smart, from Bainbridge, and Summers, from Tifton, hailed from south Georgia towns that are all in the same 229 area code. All three are sons of high school football coaches, although Summers has only a few memories of his father, Andy Summers, since he tragically died in an automobile accident when Tyson was only 2 years old.
The three coaches spent 2005 on the same coaching staff at Georgia under Mark Richt, with Mike Bobo serving as the quarterbacks coach, Smart leading running backs and Summers working as a graduate assistant. Now, all three coaches, who grew up in a one-to-two hour radius from each other, are head coaches at FBS programs.
“When they were all kids, they were raised in south Georgia where football is the way of life down there,” George Bobo said. “If you go all the way to the bottom of the state, from Bainbridge all the way to Waycross, it’s football 365 days out of the year.”
The three coaches teamed up for a satellite camp at Buford last week, with Mike Bobo flying some staff members to town, and Georgia and Georgia Southern bringing most of their assistants to participate. Summers, entering his first season as Georgia’s head coach, said the camp was coordinated between all three coaches as a way to give back to the state they call home — even if Mike Bobo now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Summers is four years younger than Smart and six years younger than Mike Bobo, with the latter two coaches serving as go-to point men, even if Smart is a first-year head coach like himself. Summers said that South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, who went to high school at the Darlington School in Rome but served as an assistant with Smart at Valdosta State, has been someone he has sought advice from, too.
“It’s a neat deal. I think it’s neat for all of us to be coming up and believing in the same things,” Summers said. “We’re all high school coaches’ sons, too, and have an opportunity to run our own programs. To be back in our state at once is a great opportunity.”
“The coaching fraternity is really tight,” Bobo said. “A lot of us communicate and talk. When you have three other guys you’re close with, and two of them you played with, it’s a good resource to have, it’s a good resource to have as a first-year head coach, like I was.”
Mike Bobo also mentioned how he wanted to be like his father, which is a big reason why he wanted to go into coaching once his playing career was over.
While George knew Mike Bobo would be a standout coach, he could also see it in Smart, especially when he was son’s teammate at Georgia in the 1990s.
“Kirby was very smart,” George said, delivering his pun without flinching. “He was a coach’s son, so you knew he would be able to go on the field to be a leader and direct all of the things. That’s the thing about him, he was able to do that while at Georgia. (Former Georgia defensive coordinator Joe) Kines used to say Kirby did everything.
“Mike was on the other side, and he was running the offense. They were just made for it. They grew up in the environment. They did it all their lives. It’s what they wanted to do because they had so much enjoyment playing high school football.
While George Bobo never coached against Summers, he heard a lot about the up-and-comer who emerged from south Georgia after Mike Bobo and Smart. Based on what he heard, there was no surprise from George Bobo to see him lead an FBS school, as well.
“I grew up in a town that was 18 miles away from Tyson,” George Bobo said. “I knew all of his high school coaches, and they all looked up to Tyson growing up. You kind of knew he was going to coach. There wasn’t any way out of it because that’s all he’d been around.”