We’ve always known Mark Stoops prides himself on his blue collar roots, but on Tuesday, we got a glimpse into how he and his family kept things afloat while pursuing their football dreams in Youngstown, Ohio. As he was introducing Stoops on the main stage at SEC Media Days, commissioner Greg Sankey shared that they both once worked as house painters, Stoops during high school and Sankey during college.
“I’ve known Greg for such a long time,” Stoops said upon taking the stage. “I didn’t know he was a painter, but I was a very good painter growing up. I was on that ladder. I was working. You know, a true story, Greg. My first job I worked at University of South Florida. That was my first full-time coaching job. I worked construction, and I did the painting at night to pay the bills. So that’s a true story. Eric Wolford, who’s my offensive line coach right now, he and I worked construction at night, so that painting paid off for me.”
The topic inevitably came up again at the end of Stoops’ segment on SEC Now when host Alyssa Lang asked if he still put his painting skills to good use.
“My painting days are over,” he said laughing. “I can’t lie. I definitely pride myself on being a professional painter. I can paint right now, there’s no doubt. If you need your house painted, I can do it. I have something to fall back on.”
Stoops often talks about his childhood in Youngstown, where he and his family (two parents and six kids) lived in a three-bedroom house, all four boys sharing one room. His father, Ron, a teacher and coach, would bring home game tape and project it on the fridge in the kitchen. Being able to pursue football was a luxury Stoops and his brothers learned they had to earn.
“I grew up, my father was a high school teacher and coach and we needed to make money in the summer, so myself, my brothers, all of us, we were pretty skilled painters and that’s kind of what we did in the summer and even through college when I came back for a college job in the summer, we did that. Something we take great pride in that blue collar mentality. We don’t just talk about it. We lived in a steel mill town. I grew up two miles from a steel mill, so I grew up smelling that.”
SEC Now cohost Roman Harper joked that when he heard Sankey say Stoops was a painter, he initially thought he meant artist, which prompted the Kentucky head coach to break out in laughter.
“Oh no,” Stoops said. “Come on, now; do I look like an artist? I’m talking scraping and painting and hard labor. I’m doing the rough edges there.”
“We have a lot of fun stories when you get into our family business,” he added. “Old houses in some rough parts in Youngstown, Ohio and we were up on the peaks of them scraping and painting. Very probably dangerous and silly stuff we did back then but we had to make a buck, so we did it.”