By Steve Williams
When I first heard about a kid named Naumoff playing football at Farragut High School a couple of years ago, I wondered if he might be related to Paul Naumoff, the great University of Tennessee linebacker of the 1960s.
Sure enough, Jacob Naumoff, the senior quarterback for the Admirals this season, is a grandson of Paul Naumoff, who went on to play 12 seasons in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions after earning All-America honors at UT in 1966.
And yes, Paul and Chris Naumoff, Jacob’s dad, who was a standout player at Farragut in the early to mid-1980s, have been following closely what has become a special season at Farragut this year.
The Admirals suffered their first loss of the season last Friday, a 9-7 decision to West, but remain in first place in Region 3-5A and are expected to contend for state honors in the playoffs.
After covering Farragut’s win over arch-rival Bearden earlier this season, I got a chance to interview the young Naumoff about his grandfather. Jacob spoke with great admiration.
Even though he plays on the other side of the ball, I asked Jacob if he felt like he inherited any football ability from his grandfather.
“I’m not nearly as gifted as my grandfather was,” replied Jacob. “Yeah, he passed down a few things, but I’ll never be as talented or as gifted.”
Of course, Jacob has seen the old films of his grandfather and they talk about those playing days.
“I bring it up all the time,” said Jacob. “I think it’s the coolest thing in the world, having someone that played at the highest level of football in my family, so I like to string out as much information as I can.”
After seeing his grandfather play the game as a young man in those films, the young Naumoff says, with a chuckle, “It’s hard to believe. Now he’s had all these surgeries. He’s not walking right, but gosh, he was such a gifted athlete.”
I asked Jacob to name one thing in particular he had received from his grandfather, as far as playing the game, that’s stuck with him.
“Just competitiveness,” said Jacob. “He taught me how to be competitive. I get that from him. Just knowing what to do in certain situations. I’m very mentally sharp when it comes to the game of football because of him.”
Chris Naumoff, via e-mail, said he and his dad are “very excited about the season” the Admirals are having and they go to every game and many practices.
“We sit at the very top, right at the 50-yard line,” said Chris, who was a tailback and outside linebacker for Farragut (1982-86) before going on to play at Middle Tennessee State University. “I keep Jake’s stats and we both analyze his performance. Jake says he always gets the raw truth from me, but his grandfather will always tell him how great he played no matter what happened.”
This is Jacob’s second season as the starting quarterback for Farragut and Coach Eddie Courtney said he has seen a lot of improvement in him.
“I think he learned a lot when we went through a very difficult season last year,” said Courtney. “When he’s on, he’s a very accurate thrower. He’s really grown up and matured as a football player.”
Paul Naumoff, the son of Macedonian immigrants, was born in 1945 in Columbus, Ohio.
During his senior season at Tennessee, Naumoff, a co-captain, volunteered to move from defensive end to linebacker after teammate Tom Fisher was killed in a car accident.
Naumoff is remembered for tackling Larry Csonka to preserve the Vols’ 18-12 win over Syracuse in the 1966 Gator Bowl. Csonka went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and become one of the NFL’s strongest running backs of all time.
Naumoff was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1970 season and was voted the Lions’ MVP in 1975.