This seems to be Brady Hoke’s calling. This is where he looks most comfortable — parading up and down the sidelines on fall Saturdays shouting out instructions, directing offenses and defenses, hoping that his words sink in.
Hoke loves this game. He loves looking at schemes and talking football. He loves teaching. But perhaps the part of the job that he enjoys that most is being able to lead and mentor a group of young men.
“He’s one of those coaches that’s never too busy for his players,” said fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. “He can always be counted on to tell you everything’s going to be ok, to talk to you about whatever it is that’s on your mind, or to cheer you up. He’s not the type of coach to turn his back on you. I really appreciate him and I’m blessed to have him as my coach, as well as the rest of the other staff.”
Hoke seems to be a natural coach, but this wasn’t always his original dream job. More than thirty years ago, he served as the captain of the Ball State football team, earning second-team all-MAC honors as a linebacker. He was also pursuing a degree in criminal justice with an eye towards joining the CIA or FBI after his playing days ended.
In March of 1981, after hearing the news that Ronald Reagan had been shot, Hoke became even more committed to a career in criminal justice. The incident instilled in him a strong duty to protect the president and a burning desire to join the Secret Service.
After graduating, Hoke landed an internship with the Federal Probation Parole Office in Southern Indiana where he worked with probationers and parolees. In the afternoons, he served as an assistant football coach at Yorktown High School, which gave him the opportunity to work with kids. His plans soon changed.
As the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, he is now laying down a different kind of law. Instead of making sure parolees are not violating the terms of their release, Hoke is in charge of making sure 100-plus football players are showing up and passing their classes, as well as giving their best effort on the field.
Since taking the job in 2011, Hoke has often sat in on some of his players’ courses to get a glimpse of how they’re doing in the classroom. That’s the type-of hands-on coach he has proven to be.
The qualities that Hoke strived to exemplify when he aimed to become a part of the Secret Service are the same ones he has now transferred to the football field, helping him become a successful coach. He preaches relentless effort and integrity, and those ideals have rubbed off on his players.
“A relentless competitor means going one hundred percent all the time, doing right the first time every time,” said senior wide receiver Drew Dileo. “We have this ethos that we try to live by and play by all the time.”
It’s that standard that makes him a perfect fit for Michigan. Not only does Hoke expect excellence in the classroom, but also on the field.
Since coming to Michigan, Hoke has posted a 23-7 record, including an undefeated home record through 17 games and a 2011 All-State Sugar Bowl victory. But at Michigan, the ultimate goal is a Big Ten championship and Hoke will not view any season a success unless it ends with his team holding the conference trophy.
“Our goal is to win the championship, and we haven’t done it,” Hoke said before the season. “We’ve failed in the last nine years because that’s an expectation.”
Michigan wants to change that. And if Hoke has his way, that drought won’t last much longer.