When Brady Hoke worked as a federal probation and parole officer nearly 35 years ago in southern Indiana, he was set on a career in law enforcement, and his goal was to become a Secret Service agent.
But a football coach approached him with the possibility of another calling.
“He wanted to know if I could help coach high school football,” Michigan’s fourth-year football coach recalled. “About eight weeks into it, I’d come home from a practice and my wife said, ‘What do you think?’
“I said, ‘I think I’m going to coach.’ ”
Monday at the SeaGate Convention Centre, Hoke was the guest speaker at the National Football Foundation Wistert Chapter’s 52nd annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner, which honored 38 high school football players and 15 high school football coaches from the Toledo area.
“Take the time to thank those who helped you,” Hoke implored the players, a group that included Whitmer defensive back and Kent State recruit Marcus Elliott and Patrick Henry offensive lineman and Virginia Tech recruit Colt Pettit. “The rides to practice, the late dinners, the support. Being in inclement weather to cheer you on. You’ve all been there.”
Introduced by former Michigan captain and Miami Dolphins safety Jordan Kovacs, a 2007 NFF Wistert Chapter honoree, Hoke spoke about the responsibilities he has as a coach, his stumbles in his first two years of college at Ball State, and discussed the three goals he states for his recruits when he makes in-home visits: To graduate at the highest level, to honor your name in everything you do, and to set goals for yourself after you earn your degree.
“You try to tailor it,” Hoke said of his speaking engagements. “Every group is different. I’m going to Jackson, Mich., on Wednesday, but there’s certain times of the year when you have the time to do this and you want to do it. You always want to have a message. This one’s easy, in a lot of ways. We’re honoring some great coaches who’ve done a tremendous job molding young men, and then you have student-athletes who, on the field and off the field, have been recognized.”
The most rousing response came for Tim Berta, an assistant baseball coach at Lourdes University who was hurt in a 2007 bus crash that killed five Bluffton University baseball players.
Berta presented the Tim Berta Courage Award, named on his behalf, to Huron’s Adam Storer and Rossford’s Josh Maas. Storer’s father died of Lou Gehrig’s disease earlier this year, and Maas was diagnosed with testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and liver and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
“Just remember,” Berta said, nodding to the 38 high school football players who were honored, “all these young men have a vast amount of courage and are deserving of this award. ”
Derich Weiland, a senior receiver at Central Catholic, said the presentations by Hoke and Berta made an impression upon him.
“To see a person who’s achieved so much and had success in their life, and then to hear a true story about how everything has worked out for him, you learn how important it is to take everything a day at a time, and not take anything for granted,” said Weiland, a Toledo recruit. “It meant a lot, what both he and Brady Hoke said. I took it to heart.”