Program Spotlight: Jimmie Sutton, III
By Brandon Yopp
Raleigh, N.C. - When Jimmie Sutton is at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., and someone calls his name, he answers.
Four other men do too.
The second oldest of four boys in the Sutton family, Jimmie and his three brothers all share the same first name as their father. Aside from their mother and first name, however, the guys also share six sisters; Lakettar, Erica, Jackie, Tiffany, Jessica and Tamiesha. That’s 12 people living under one roof.
Needless to say, growing up in the Sutton household was an experience. Jimmie’s journey began on June 25, 1984, when he was born to Jimmie, Sr. and Doreen Sutton. His father worked in construction and was a skilled carpenter, while his mom taught at school and worked in the cafeteria.
As a young child, Sutton and two siblings shared a room in the family’s two-bedroom abode. When the family expanded, his father built an additional bedroom and living room onto the house to make things more accommodating and easier on everyone. Mom and dad had their space, the boys had a room to their own, and the girls shared the third bedroom.
“We had to work with what we had,” said Sutton. “That’s how I grew up.”
The family quarters may have been tight, but the Sutton home was a fun place to grow up. Although it may seem like an inconceivable situation to some, Sutton and his siblings had no complaints.
“It was always fun,” said Sutton. “You always had someone to talk to, hang out with, go off to the corner store or practice with. You always had someone to tell anything to. We all taught each other and learned from one another.”
As one might expect, the effects of having so many siblings was varied. Most of the kids had passed through the same classrooms throughout middle and high school, learning from the same teachers that had instructed the elders. The younger girls in the family, however, were behind the 8-ball when it came to getting dates. If a young man wanted to take out one of the Sutton girls, he had to meet the approval of a lengthy list of protective brothers.
“That wasn’t the easiest thing to do,” said Sutton.
Fortunately for Sutton and his brothers, the girls didn’t hold a grudge. Often times his sisters would help their mother cook and clean around the house. As you might guess, the Sutton family ate most of its meals at home in order to avoiding breaking the bank over nightly dinners. The boys played their role as well when it came to chores and duties at home by doing all of the heavy lifting and keeping the yard kempt.
“When you’re one of the older children at home, you have to learn to take responsibility very early,” said Sutton. “Having six siblings younger than me, I had to learn very quickly how to help take care of them and teach them how to do things.”
One of the most interesting times of the year at the Sutton home was on holidays. For Easter the entire family would dress up, load into the van, and head off to church. At Christmastime it wasn’t unusual for nearly 100 different gifts to lie beneath the tree. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day the kids usually made their parents gifts, or combined their resources to buy something special.
There were also birthdays; almost one in every month.
“A friend of mine was talking to me the other day about telling her sister happy birthday,” said Sutton. “I just said Imagine saying that 11 times a year.’”
According to him, however, it wasn’t all that hard to keep track of the dates.
“It wasn’t tough to remember all of the birthdays because it was just something you couldn’t forget,” said Sutton. “It also helped that all of my younger sisters would go around and remind everyone when their birthday was coming up.”
While Jimmie may be known as No. 8 by fans in the seats at Carter-Finley Stadium, he’s known around his family as III or Third. All of the men, in fact, go by numbers except for dad; older brother is II, Jimmie is III, and little brothers are IV and V.
“We established that early on,” said Sutton. “As we were growing up, my mom stopped using the name Jimmie unless she was referring to my father. After that, we started going by our numerals. It wasn’t a real big task. My dad always knew that he was Jimmie, and we were the numbers.
“Coming to Raleigh, and me being the only Jimmie here, it was weird hearing Jimmie,” said Sutton. “At home I was always Third.”
II and IV remained at home when Sutton came to NC State, but V enjoyed his own athletic success. Despite tearing his ACL early in the school year, V picked up a national championship ring with the Florida Gators men’s basketball team in 2006. His jersey number? No. 5, of course.
Aside from school and sports, Sutton’s first outside venture before coming to State was when he took a job as a bag boy for Publix. According to him, it was a very rewarding experience.
“It was my first job and it helped me have a chance to work with other people,” said Sutton. “I took advantage of it, and I learned to speak to others and work well with other people. It was something that I brought back home and was able to share with my family. It was a good experience.”
Another plus of his job was the fact that all Publix employees received a generous discount on all items located in the store. When you’re sharing a house with 11 other people, you don’t pass up on offers like that.
“I bought groceries with my paycheck from time to time,” said Sutton. “I did whatever I could to help out my parents and my family, because they did so much for me.”
Sutton is quick to point out that his work ethic was instilled in him early on, and reinforced through the years by watching his family interact. He credits the ability of his family to teach, instruct and take care of each other, as well as the labor put in by his mother and father.
“My dad is a hard worker,” said Sutton. “And my mother; just being able to put up with 10 kids. My mom and my dad instilled responsibility in me early. Not giving up. Having faith in your family. They showed those traits every day, and they did it together.”
Leaving that tight-knit unit was the hardest part of enrolling at NC State for Sutton. Although he was confident in his abilities to come to school and excel on the field and in the classroom, being apart from his large family was an issue that he struggled with at times.
“It was real tough,” said Sutton. “I didn’t have my younger brother to always joke around with. I didn’t have one of my siblings to confide in.”
Sutton’s days of worrying about being with his family are long gone at this point. Now he’s more concerned with being able to provide for them, especially his mom and dad.
“Playing professional football would be a dream come true for myself and my family,” said Sutton. “I just want to make them proud.”
On track to receive his degree in December, Sutton will be the first male from his family to graduate from college. Upon that, he’ll have to wait a few months before he finds out if he’ll an opportunity to play football at the next level.
“If that doesn’t work out, I’ll move on,” said Sutton. “I’m proud that I’ve earned my degree and I’m positive that I’ll find success regardless of whether or not it’s on the football field. I’m willing to do whatever I have to do. I’ve known the meaning of hard work my whole life.”
Something tells me that’s what makes his parents proud, as well as his brothers and sisters. All XI of them.