FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Former NFL star Brad Hoover makes the jump from pro football player to high school coach

By JAY EDWARDS

Brad Hoover ’00 is used to proving people wrong. After going undrafted out of Western Carolina University, Hoover went on to a 10-year National Football League career as a fullback for the Carolina Panthers. He now has taken on a new challenge as coach for Union Academy in Monroe.

Brad-Hoover

Former Catamount Brad Hoover ’00 prowls the sidelines as football coach for Union Academy in Monroe.

“Every day out here has definitely been a challenge for me,” Hoover said. “I am trying to get my mind back in the most basic, fundamental form of football, and it is a learning process for me. But I think being with these guys, who are playing for the love of the game, is also what attracts me to coaching. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”

While Hoover, 36, hasn’t had a formal coaching job, he says he felt like a coach as he progressed in the NFL, helping younger players be professionals. He said every coach he has played for, including former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox, has affected his style of coaching, but Hoover said his high school coach, Dickie Cline (who coached Hoover at Ledford High and is now at Thomasville High), is the biggest influence.

Hoover said he hopes all his knowledge will help him develop a football tradition for Union Academy’s high school team; this fall, the Cardinals program entered its fifth year without a winning season. Its best record was 6-6 in 2011; last year, the Cardinals went 5-7. “I am just trying to get each guy to go out and play to the best of their ability and do their job every play,” Hoover said. “If we can have that kind of focus, good things will follow.”

He wants his players to learn to play with the same chip on their shoulders that he did. “Call it what you want to, but I always felt I had something to prove as a player,” he said. “I want my guys to play with the same kind of edge. We know we are the underdogs, but we have to go out and fight to show that we can be successful. We are trying to change the whole culture of this program.”

His players are eager to prove themselves. “We are definitely playing with that same chip on our shoulder, already,” Union Academy senior quarterback Craig Twele said. “That is the mentality that we have to have. We don’t always like being the underdog, but we are learning to embrace it and use it to our advantage.”

No matter what opponent his team plays, Hoover said he expects to compete at a high level. “I have high expectations for this program,” he said. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight. I know there are going to be ups and downs, but what will define us is how we react to those tough times. Right now, we want to get better every day, every week.”

Reprinted in edited format with permission of South Charlotte News, a Charlotte Observer publication, 2013