By Nate Thompson

EGELSTON TWP. – Some people just have athletic success rooted in their family trees.

That’s certainly the case for Alex Shoop, who is the final branch of the Shoop family tree at Oakridge High School.

“Everyone calls me ‘Baby Shoop,’’’ said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior, who is proving to be a versatile weapon for the Eagles this season.

Last year Shoop lined up at wide receiver and caught 39 passes for 398 yards and two touchdowns. But with speed that allows him to run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, the coaches have decided to incorporate him into the running game, which appears to be a very good idea.

Last week he led the Eagles with 128 yards on 11 carries at running back in their 37-18 season-opening victory over Chippewa Hills. That means Shoop will be a definite concern for North Muskegon on Thursday night when Oakridge visits the Norse in an early West Michigan Conference showdown.

Shoop has followed in the footsteps of his older brothers – Dan, Adam and Mike – who each enjoyed success on the playing fields at Oakridge. Dan and Mike both starred on the gridiron as running backs and defensive backs, while Adam focused on cross country and track.

Alex Shoop, who was a standout receiver for Oakridge last year, is also a featured running back this season. Photo/Jason Goorman

Each of the Shoop brothers had high expectations to live up to, considering their grandfather, the late Ron Shoop, spent nearly a decade playing minor league baseball, and had one brief call-up to the Major Leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1959.

“He was a catcher,” Alex Shoop said about his grandfather. “It’s kind of funny, because none of my brothers or myself played baseball in high school. It was either basketball, football, or track.”

Ron Shoop passed on his passion for athletics to his son, Ron Jr., who played baseball, football and track in high school in Rural Valley, Pa.

Ron Jr. moved his wife, Toni, and their four boys to Muskegon when Alex was in elementary school. The family quickly discovered the undying passion the community has for Oakridge sports – especially football. And the Shoop brothers learned that winning a lot of games is a tradition for the Eagles.

“There’s two sides to it,” Alex said. “The community is always there supporting you because football is so big to everyone around here. It’s awesome. At the same time, there’s certain expectations, and if you have a bad year, they’ll let you know about it.

A year ago, with three-year starter Brady Luttrull at quarterback, Oakridge won the West Michigan Conference championship and advanced to the Division 5 district finals, where they suffered a lopsided loss to perennial power Ithaca.

Alex Shoop finds running room against North Muskegon last season. Photo/Sherry Wahr

“There was so much emotion after that game, just because we didn’t want to go out like that,” Shoop said. “I’d be happy to play them again, just for the opportunity for revenge.”

Shoop benefitted from Luttrull’s passing talents and established himself as one of the best receivers in the area last season. Oakridge coach Carey Harger said he will be much more of a dual threat for the Eagles this fall.

“He’ll be one of our backs in our T-formation, which is our full house with two tight ends,” Harger said. “As athletic as he is, we want to take full advantage of that and showcase his talents.”

Shoop, who calls himself more of a speed back, is joined in the offensive backfield by two talented “thumpers” in Blake Masterman and Leroy Quinn. All three were impressive in Week 1, with Quinn gaining 120 yards on 19 carries and Masterman totaling 88 yards on 19 carries

Shoop said the team has also transitioned well to new quarterback Koleman Wall, a junior.

“Koleman’s a tall guy, so he can definitely see over the line,” Shoop said. “He’s got a really strong arm and he’s a smart kid. He’s really become a leader of our team, even though he’s a junior.”

Shoop stands next to a sign that clearly states the Eagles’ goal for this week. Photo/Jason Goorman

Shoop has plenty of mentors to pick up some tips at running back. Oldest brother Mike helped Oakridge capture the 2008 Division 5 state championship and was named the state finals game MVP.  Five years later, Dan Shoop was a key member of the Eagles’ squad that advanced to the state semifinals, but his senior season was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 8.

“I watched them play as a kid, and even now, I’ll watch their film from time to time,” Alex said. “They’ll talk to me and point out my mistakes, or help me correct my technique.”

Shoop said two goals his brothers have laid out for him this year are to never be tackled by just one player, and to always fall forward to try to gain extra yards.

“With Mike, he’ll always tell me to hit the gym, I need to get bigger,” Shoop said with a laugh.

Shoop, who plans on entering the dental program at Northern Michigan University, wants to make sure the Shoop family legacy at Oakridge ends with a bang this season.

“I want to go further (in the playoffs),” he said. “Regionals and state. That’s the target. My freshman year, we lost in the first round. We lost in the first round my sophomore year and last year we made it to the second round. So it’s really a huge goal to get past that hump.”