Pat Shurmur drives a Ford.
It’s not because he got a great deal on it or because he likes the mileage it gets or its safety features. Instead, it’s about his own identity. It reminds him of where he comes from — Dearborn Heights, Michigan, just outside Detroit — and of how he was raised. In the past he’s been behind the wheels of GMs or Chryslers, too.
“I’ve always driven an American car,” the head coach of the Giants told Newsday. “The cars and manufacturing of cars, it was a big part of what we were as an area growing up, so I’ve always sort of embraced that.”
This week, he’ll get a chance to do so more than just symbolically and automotively.
The Giants will spend most of this week in Michigan, flying out on Monday evening before three days of practices and workouts with the Lions and then a preseason game against Detroit on Friday night. It’ll have the team on the road for the better part of the week, but it will have Shurmur about as close to home as he could be.
Dearborn Heights is adjacent to Allen Park, where the Lions hold their training camp and where the Giants will be spending their time on the field in the coming days. In fact, the fields will be just a few miles away from the house where Shurmur grew up. If he wanted to, he could probably make it there and back on a quick jog without missing much of the workouts.
Of course he won’t. He’ll be focused on the job, on coaching the Giants and getting them ready for the upcoming regular season. But the first-year coach of the Giants does hope to carve out some time for family visits while he’s in town.
“It’s always enjoyable to go home,” he said. “Throughout the week we’re there I’ll get a chance to at some point visit with my mother. My brothers live close. Maybe my old high school coach. I’m certainly going to see some people from when I was young . . . Time doesn’t really permit us to do much. Hopefully I can get a family visit. But they’re going to be busy days so I don’t know what I’ll have time for.”
There are sure to be plenty of Shurmurs around, even if Pat can’t find many moments to visit with them directly. His mother, Barbara, 75, no longer lives in the house where she and her late husband Joe raised their family.
“She moved out west,” Pat Shurmur said.
To California? No. To Canton, Michigan. About 10 miles to the west.
The hotel in Allen Park where the Lions are staying during training camp? It’s run by Joseph Shurmur, Pat’s brother. He has another brother, Robert, who lives near Battle Creek — Pat visited there for a family gathering this summer — and his aunts and his godmother live closer to Detroit and where the Giants will be staying in Troy.
Pat Shurmur hasn’t lived in the area since 1997 when he left Michigan State, where he played football and got his start in coaching. While Shurmur visits often during offseasons, this will be his first time going back for an extended visit not as a former resident but as a head coach (in 2012 when he was head coach of the Browns his team opened the preseason with a win in Detroit but they were just in town for the game).
Shurmur said his fondest memories of growing up revolved around sports. He played three sports for most of his childhood — baseball, basketball and football — and did a little wrestling at Divine Child High School.
“I think that was the thing that I always looked forward to were the games and the practices,” he recalled. “Our home was one mile from the school so everything was pretty close.”
Naturally he was a Lions fan. Especially during the years when his uncle, Fritz Shurmur, was an assistant coach for the Lions from 1975-77. But he said he rarely went to Lions games or Lions training camps, which back then were held in Pontiac and not nearby Allen Park.
The games he was more likely to attend were Tigers games.
“Baseball was probably my favorite sport growing up,” he said. “We would probably go to six or eight Tigers games a year. I was a big fan of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. I thought that was pretty cool. That was Tiger baseball when I was young. They were quite a duo.”
Many NFL teams participate in joint practices during the summers, although this is a relatively new wrinkle in the camp schedule for the Giants. They haven’t done it since they visited Cincinnati for a week in 2015, and before that the last time was 2005 when a practice with the Jets quickly disintegrated into a rumble.
The Giants’ time in the Detroit area this week is designed to not only improve the football they’ll play but galvanize the team. It will help them form their identity.
For Shurmur, it also will serve to reinforce his.
“I’m very fond of where I grew up, proud to be from there,” he said. “It was a good place to be raised and learn about the world and live in the real world. It was a lot of fun. I’m very, very proud of my roots . . . I was very fortunate to grow up in a loving home where our parents inspired us to do good.”
Motown, he can honestly say, is my town.
“It’s always fun to go home.”