Shane Beamer’s new role as University of South Carolina head football coach is a dream come true. In September 2004, an altogether different dream began taking shape, but he was so focused on coaching at Mississippi State he almost lost his chance with his now-wife, Emily.
“The very first time I saw her, I was coaching in the press box at my first home game at Mississippi State. She was working in media relations, so she was working in the press box, too,” he says. “I can still see it so vividly. Coming up into the press box, the elevator doors open, and I see her. It was one of those ‘a-ha’ moments.”
“He was in the press box that first game and then he was on the field after that. He was never back up there again,” says Emily.
Shane didn’t broach a conversation with her until two long months later. Even then, it took an intervention to connect them.
“Emily will tell you that I go right up against the edge of running out of gas pretty regularly, but I have only actually run out of gas once in my entire life,” he says with a laugh. One night in November 2004, Shane had suffered a grueling loss to Alabama on the road and was trying to get home after returning to Starkville. During the 10-minute ride home, he ran out of gas. His neighbor was happy to come to his rescue under one condition — that he join him for an evening out celebrating Emily’s birthday. “The rest is history,” he says.
A Shared Love of Sports
Emily Beamer, 37, is a native of Starkville, Mississippi. She is no stranger to the world of sports. “I loved sports growing up. I was a high school cheerleader, and I ran track,” says Emily. For most of her childhood, her father was a Mississippi state trooper who traveled with the Mississippi State football team. “We were always traveling to games and going to sporting events,” she says. She loved Mississippi State sports so much she later enrolled and majored in sports communication there.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Shane grew up in the eye of the college football hurricane. His father, Frank, first played football at Virginia Tech and later became the winningest head coach in the school’s history. He was inducted into College Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Sports may have been inescapable for Shane, but he loved them deeply even in his youngest years.
“I was always around sports,” he says. “I played basketball and baseball growing up. I played football when I was in fourth grade but then didn’t play again until the eighth grade. I was always doing something sports-related.”
After finally connecting in November 2004, Emily and Shane dated for a year and experienced a football season together. In late 2005, Shane decided the loss of Emily’s affection was a defeat that would sting far greater than a loss to Alabama.
“She’s awesome and we fit, you know? We dated for an entire football season at Mississippi State,” he says. “She saw the time that you’re gone recruiting, she saw the hours required during the season. And that year, we didn’t have a good season, so it wasn’t like it was all great.”
Emily concurs, adding, “He always was considerate and kind. He was a lot of fun and very thoughtful, always surprising me with things. I knew very early on.”
During the 2005 winter holidays, Shane cooked up the riskiest play of his life. The scheme, which took place at the scenic Homestead Resort in Virginia, involved dinner, two rings, a bellman, and meticulous timing.
“We went back to the room after dinner to exchange Christmas presents,” Emily says. “My first gift was a little jewelry box.” Inside was a ring, but not an engagement ring. “After I opened it, he said, ‘I’m sorry to give you a ring. I know that probably made you think it was something else.’ Then, the doorbell rang, and it was a bellman with a different ring box. When I turned around, Shane was down on one knee. There were rose petals and candles. I don’t even know how he lit everything so fast. He did an amazing job with that.”
Next Stop, Columbia
The Beamers married in June 2006 and less than a year later found themselves considering a move to Columbia, where Shane had been offered an assistant coaching role under then-head coach Steve Spurrier. Already in Atlanta for the weekend, the young couple headed to Columbia to look around. Driving around Elgin in the Northeast, they spotted a house they could see as their family’s first home. Shane decided to join the South Carolina staff.
The Beamers spent four years in Columbia until they left for Virginia — and a once-in-a-lifetime program role with his father at Virginia Tech — in 2011.
“I loved Columbia,” says Emily. “I didn’t want to ever leave. Our girls were born here, and we had wonderful memories here. This is where we had our firsts, you know — our first house, our kids, a lot of very special memories.”
The family never seemed to fully uproot from South Carolina. Over the years, recruiting trips brought Shane back to town, and Emily sometimes joined him just to be in Columbia. “We’ve always loved Columbia. After we left and lived in Virginia or Georgia or Oklahoma, we always came back to South Carolina to go to the beach in the summertime.”
The Beamer family, which already included daughters Sutton and Olivia, soon grew to include their son, Hunter, and dog, Boomer. “We have a little snorkie — a miniature Schnauzer and Yorkie,” says Emily. “We promised the girls a dog when we moved from Georgia to Oklahoma, so Boomer is our little Oklahoma dog.”
In December 2020, after Shane was named head coach at South Carolina, the family found themselves returning to the city they so dearly love. While some aspects had changed greatly — “Main Street,” notes Emily — many things about Columbia still rang true.
“Columbia is growing, and it’s only gotten better in so many ways, for sure,” says Shane. “It’s still a great, welcoming, Southern town. You know it’s a city, but it still has that small-town feel, which we’ve always loved. We certainly love that as a family, and when we’re recruiting, that’s very appealing to the kids.”
One change the family did make was selecting a home closer to town. “We loved the surrounding areas, but we always said if we ever came back, we wanted to live closer to campus for a lot of reasons,” says Shane. “Proximity to work is critical as much as I’m here, and on the weekends as well. From a recruiting standpoint, we’re able to have recruits to our home, too.”
That proximity also gives Shane more time with Emily, their children, and Boomer. “I hate to say it, but I’ve worked with so many coaches in my life who would rather be in the office than go home. It’s sad, but I’ve heard it before. Never once have I ever felt that way,” he says. “If I have time off or time away from the office, I spend it with my family.”
It’s a sentiment he infuses into his football program, too.
“I try to do a really good job of bringing the family into my job as much as possible,” he says. “I’ve worked for some great coaches like Coach Spurrier and Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma who always welcomed families. I want the wives and children of my coaches to be in this building as much as possible. I want them at practice. I want them on the field and at games.”
No one understands the high-pressure demands of being a college football head coach better than the son of a college football head coach.
“My freshman year in high school, Virginia Tech won five games. My sophomore year, they won two games. That was a tough time, but it made our family even more close-knit. You’re 14 and 15 years old, and people are telling you that your dad’s not a very good coach. That’s hard. At the end of the day, I know I’ve got to be a great husband and a great father first, so that’s what I try to do.”
“And he is,” says Emily. “He’s a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. He definitely makes family a priority, and he always has.”
As Emily ventures into her biggest program role yet, she draws from the experience of two skilled mentors — her mother-in-law, Cheryl, and Jerri Spurrier. “You can’t really ever be prepared for this, but obviously, Shane’s mom was a great role model.” Emily also credits Jerri Spurrier for setting the head coach’s wife bar extremely high. “I would like to be a lot like her,” says Emily. “Not only was she great with including families, she’d always say, ‘These are your memories too. They’re not just his.’ That we can be part of his job and the kids can enjoy being at practice and at games makes it a lot of fun for all of us as a family.”
One of Shane’s best on the field mentors is also his father, Frank. “I think I’ve always been even-keeled. That’s one thing I learned from my dad. He was always so consistent and steady from an emotional standpoint. There was no emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. Just steady positivity. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I am.”
One of his blessings is the gift of being back in Columbia at his dream job with the people he loves most in the world. “Emily and I always talked about what a dream it would be to come back. We were not doing that in every town that we drove through either,” he says with a laugh. “We weren’t driving through Knoxville, Tennessee, or Auburn, Alabama, saying that. Columbia was where we always dreamed of being. Being a coach here, having the opportunity to live here and raise our kids here, it’s a dream to be back, and we plan to be here for a long, long time. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.”
Emily quickly punctuates that thought with a quiet, meaningful “Amen.” A perfect expression from someone who knows all too well how different their story could have been if only:
If Steve Spurrier hadn’t picked up the phone to bring them to South Carolina.
If Shane’s car hadn’t run out of gas that November night in Starkville.
If Emily had decided to date that other guy instead of Shane. But that, they say laughing, is an entirely different story.