Minnesota Transition Going Swimmingly for Jennifer Shurmur

Posted Feb 13, 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Jennifer Shurmur last week sat in the stands of a swim meet in Milwaukee and saw herself in her youngest daughter, Claire.

Jennifer had watched her daughter train, set goals, and now was able to see her crush her former best time in the 100-freestyle race.

“She looked up at the wall, and she saw her time,” Jennifer said. “And she almost looked at it in disbelief because she couldn’t believe that she had done it.”

The moment brought Jennifer back to her own days of competitive swimming – breaking the surface of the water, adrenaline pumping, seeing the personal best time.

“Those are moments that you never forget,” Jennifer said. “I’m happy that my kids have had those experiences from swimming.”

The Shurmur family shares a passion for athletics.

Jennifer, the wife of Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York – “the home of IBM and Snookie,” she tells people – and has always been active. She started out in dance and acrobatics at a young age, but it was when she watched her younger brother’s swim meet that everything changed.

“My brother was swimming, and I said to my mom and dad, ‘I want to try that,’ ” Jennifer recalled. “I tried it and I loved it.”

While Jennifer’s brother continued to swim through the eighth grade before moving on to crew in high school, Jennifer stayed in the pool. Not only did she fall in love with swimming, but she excelled at it. Jennifer was a freestyle swimmer and competed all throughout junior high and high school before attending Michigan State.

There, Jennifer was a standout swimmer who garnered attention from all over the country. Jennifer’s name remains in the Spartans record books – she still holds a place in the top 10 all-time for her 1989 performance in the 200-meter freestyle and the 1,650 freestyle. In 1986, Jennifer’s team set a still-standing school record in the 400 freestyle relay.

“It’s hard to believe that the record still exists,” Jennifer said. “We were Big Ten champions in that event, and it was probably one of the most memorable moments of swimming.

“I just really enjoyed the competition, I enjoyed my teammates, I enjoyed the training that was involved in it,” Jennifer added. “It was the opposite of the academics, so it was just my outlet. It was what I was passionate about.”

Perhaps fittingly, it was Jennifer’s swimming career that crossed her path with Pat’s.

It was the tale of two athletes, a swimmer and an offensive lineman who met in the Spartans weight room. When Pat first asked Jennifer on a date, she admits reluctance with a chuckle.

“I was like, ‘He’s just another football player,’ ” Jennifer said.

She agreed to a date, however, and the two went out for dinner.

“The funny part of the story is that me being the swimmer that was training, I ended up finishing his dinner – the big football player,” Jennifer said. “And his reaction was, ‘Well, you’re not like the other girls.’ I guess that’s what got me in.”

Added Jennifer: “We both knew after that date we were going to get married.”

During the year the two were engaged, Pat earned his MBA and worked for IBM for nine months before realizing his heart was on the football field, not behind a desk.

“He loved coaching, loved working with players, loved teaching,” Jennifer said. “And kudos to him – he threw caution to the wind and just dove into what he was passionate about.”

Since then, Pat has spent nine seasons coaching at the college level and 18 seasons in the pros. The Shurmurs have lived in six different states and now have four children: Allyson, Erica, Kyle and Claire. While there were challenges that accompany relocating, the moves have also strengthened the family in many ways.

Jennifer called being a mother “the most rewarding job” she’s ever experienced.

“I’m close with my children because of football, because we’ve moved and we’ve been pioneers together,” Jennifer said. “My children have probably taught me more than I have taught them. I’m a better person because I’m a mom.

All four of the Shurmur children have been swimmers. Kyle, who started out in the pool before following in his father’s footsteps, is the starting quarterback at Vanderbilt University.

Jennifer makes an effort to be at as many of Kyle’s games as she can.

“It can be nerve wracking when there are gigantic defensive ends that are trying to sack him, but I know he’s passionate about it, so I support him,” Jennifer said. “I have to say that I have a lot more appreciation for players with my son playing at that level. Not that I ever denied the preparation, but I really see the amount of effort that the players have to put into every game.”

Football is a family affair for the Shurmurs, who coined the opening weekend of the NFL season as “Vandy-Vikings Weekend.” Jennifer said it was a happy coincidence that schedules aligned to allow both Kyle and Pat to have games in Nashville on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Looking over the past 20-plus years, Jennifer said it’s not a journey she would have predicted, but it’s one she’s forever grateful for.

“I might have gone to all of two of my high school football games, so I wasn’t really a huge fan. Not that I disliked it, but I was just into doing other things,” said Jennifer before adding with a smile, “Now look at my life.”

As Pat prepares for his second season with the Vikings – and first full season as offensive coordinator – Jennifer is enjoying making the Twin Cities home and is looking forward to being more involved in the community.

Jennifer, who worked with charities to raise awareness for domestic violence while in Cleveland, has looked into opportunities to serve at some of the local shelters. She also has gotten plugged in with the Vikings Women initiative and is grateful for the program.

“It’s great the women all get together, but it’s especially nice that the organization sponsors it and supports it,” Jennifer said. “Seeing some of the faces within the organization, it’s just a way to feel warm and welcome when you first move here.”

Jennifer has participated in a number of opportunities through Vikings Women, including distribution of Matter boxes to the Twin Cities community.

“More than anything, I’m happy that the Vikings have put this together to gather us women and just be united with each other to help make Minneapolis better,” Shurmur said. “Those little things really do make a difference.”