After spending his life around football, it only took a year away from it for Caleb Shock to realize what it meant to him.
Shock, 32, is the new football coach at Carlisle — his first head coaching position.
“No doubt I was meant to be a coach,” said Shock, the son of former Bison coach Steve Shock.
In a press release announcing the hire, new Carlisle athletic director B.J. Greene said: “This man is more than just a great football coach; he is a leader of men (who) always displays impeccable character and work ethic.
“Coach Shock was exposed to the game, the grind of building a top-notch program and how to treat others at a very early age. He has undoubtedly held onto these virtues and utilizes them in his daily interactions. He is a motivator, a leader (who) has a never-ending contagious energy. Coach Shock knows how to treat kids.”
Central Arkansas Christian coach Tommy Shoemaker — one of Shock’s mentors — applauded the hire.
“I’m excited for him,” Shoemaker said. “He’s such a good person, and I know he’ll have a good influence on the kids at Carlisle. I expect him to do really well. It’s going to be a a great move for Carlisle and for him as well.”
Steve Shock also coached at Morrilton and Vilonia before retiring in 2001.
Shock graduated from Vilonia in 2004 and went to Harding University for three years. He didn’t play football, but he was a volunteer coach for three years at Harding Academy under Shoemaker.
“He was great,” Shock said. “Because I was just a volunteer, they couldn’t pay me, so he and Mrs. Debbie would have me over once a week to feed me.”
But Shock didn’t finish what he started there.
“I was kind of an idiot and thought I didn’t need college to make it in life, but I realized real quick that coaching and teaching was what I wanted to do,” he said.
He finished his degree at the University of Central Arkansas in 2010. During his last year at UCA, he helped Shoemaker, who by then had moved on to Mustang Mountain.
“He’s a guy that every time I’ve looked to apply for a job or needed a contact, he’s one of the first guys I’ve called,” Shock said. “We’ve remained pretty close.”
After earning his degree, he went to Tennessee for his first full-time job — defensive coordinator at Jackson Christian under Matt Underwood, now assistant head coach at Harding University. The team made the playoffs every season, its best finish the state quarterfinals, but after three years, it was time for Shock to return closer to home.
“We have a very, very tight-knit family,” he said. “Everybody lives within five miles of the greater Vilonia area. I lost two grandparents, and I thought, ‘I’m ready to get back home.’”
So he started applying for jobs and was offered the head junior high position at Heber Springs. After a conference-championship year there, he was promoted to defensive coordinator at the high school under David Farr. After one year, Farr left for Maumelle, and Shock worked under Darren Gowen — another former CAC coach — for two more years as DC. The Panthers won the 2-4A conference title and made a good run in the playoffs.
While at Heber, Shock met his wife, Danielle.
“She was my waitress at a restaurant in El Paso,” he said. “That ought to be a country song. I thought she looked good and kept going back for lunch. We finally went on a date, and the rest is history.”
Their daughter, Katherine Mae, will be 2 in September.
But after four years at Heber Springs, private business — and his mother — called.
“My mother has a very successful business, Sue Shock Insurance, out of Vilonia,” he said. “She’s done a great job of building up a really strong business, and you get to the point that you think, ‘At some point, I want to retire, so I’ll either have to sell my business to strangers or sell it to my kids.’
“My sister didn’t want anything to do with it, so Mom told me, ‘I know you’re coaching, but if you have any interest in this, you need to come down and see if you want to do it.’”
During the last year, while working in insurance, he kept his teaching and coaching credentials active and said he continued to keep up with the field.
“I always keep up with what’s going on,” he said. “I love football and I love high school football. I would not say that I enjoyed the business. I did enjoy the flexibility of my schedule. If I needed to take off at 2 to take my daughter to the doctor, that’s no problem.
“But did I enjoy the actual job as much as I enjoyed coaching? Not even close.”
He said he had a couple of opportunities to return to coaching, and he applied for the head position at his alma mater Vilonia.
“I told my mom that was a job I’d apply for,” he said.
But Todd Langrell was lured away from Mayflower for the Vilonia job.
“There were a few phone calls about assistant job openings, so I always kind of kept my resume handy in case the right thing came along,” Shock said.
He said he wasn’t really looking, though, when Greene, with whom he’d worked at Heber Springs, called about the Bison job.
“It turned out to be a perfect storm,” Shock said. “Coach (Mark) Uhiren told him he was retiring in June, and that’s late to be looking for a head coach. B.J. knew me and believed I could do the job.”
Greene said despite the late hire, Shock and his staff hit the ground running.
“Lord, have they ever,” he said. “As late as we hired them, I’ve been pleased with our football staff.”
In the press release, Greene said: “Coach Shock is a diligent worker (who) embodies what it means to be a Bison — respectful, hard-working and tenacious. I am extremely excited for Coach Shock to arrive and begin working with our young men.”