Fri Oct 07 09:38am EDT
Jim Weber runs Lost Lettermen, devoted to keeping tabs on former college athletes and other nostalgia. This week, he caught up with first-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke to discuss his original "dream job."
As the man in charge of returning the winningest college football program to glory, there aren't many gigs more stressful than the one Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has called his "dream job." But if he had followed one of his original dreams, Hoke would be in a gig with far more pressure: Protecting the president's blind side as a Secret Service agent.
Long before Hoke was patrolling the Michigan sideline, he dreamt of a career in law enforcement that he hoped would one day lead to the White House. Originally, Hoke planned on becoming an FBI or CIA agent after his college career ended as a linebacker at Ball State. But on March 30, 1981, Hoke's future came into clear focus.
"President Reagan had just been shot, I was a criminal justice major at the time and I thought it was a duty of mine to protect the president of the United States," Hoke said earlier this week. He still remembers watching the drama unfold in between classes from his apartment as the nation prayed that Reagan would survive the assassination attempt.
After graduation from Ball State, Hoke's ambition landed him an internship with the Federal Probation Parole Office in Indiana's Southern District. Working with less-than-upstanding citizens, Hoke carried a gun every day. He even had a dicey encounter with a man who reached for a butcher knife when Hoke entered his mobile home, prompting Hoke to draw his weapon.
"The knife was sitting on the table too close for comfort," Hoke said. "I had a partner that was with me that was kind of my mentor. Having him there, I felt pretty good."
Hoke split his time at the parole office with helping the football coaches at a local high school, and quickly decided to pursue coaching because he loved working with kids. In 1983, he took his first college job as defensive line coach at Grand Valley (Mich.) State. Now, nearly three decades later, he's in charge of one of the most prestigious programs in America.
If you're surprised that Hoke would be interested in a profession so far removed from coaching, you shouldn't be: This is the same guy that doesn't eat on game days, is known for wearing shorts even in the dead of winter, has more clocks around the Michigan football complex than Flavor Flav — two are for the Ohio State and Michigan State dates, counting down the minutes to the Wolverines' biggest rivalry games — and refuses to wear the color red, the color of his own alma mater, because of its connection to Ohio State.
With the Wolverines sitting at 5-0 and on the cusp of the top 10 in both mainstream polls, he's also spent the last week trying to throw cold water on mounting expectations ahead of their first road trip Saturday at Northwestern. Michigan also opened up 5-0 last year under his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, after starting 4-0 in 2009, and promptly tanked in Big Ten play for the second year in a row. Saturday's 58-0 annihilation of Minnesota was the Wolverines' third consecutive win in a conference opener, but after the first two, they combined to go 2-12 in Big Ten games the rest of the way.
"I don't need to remind them and we don't talk about that. I mean, they know. They know. They lived it," Hoke said of the back-to-back collapses under Rodriguez. "Our seniors have done a tremendous job. I like how they've handled their business. …
"I meet with them on Thursdays and Sundays and in the meeting on Sunday, I believe it was [tight end] Kevin Koger who said, 'We've got a long way to go before we're any kind of championship football team.' "
That may be so, but if Hoke somehow finds a way to lead Michigan to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title on the first weekend of December, instead of Hoke protecting the president, there may be a few Michigan fans lining up to take a bullet for him.
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