Brown defensive tackle Michael Hoecht no longer under-the-radar ahead of CFL combine

Photo courtesy: Brown University Athletics

The 2020 CFL draft class recently got deeper — and a lot smarter.

Michael Hoecht (pronounced “Hoyt”) has accepted an invitation to the league’s national combine after securing draft status in October. The product of Brown University flew under the radar until recently, a result of his transient upbringing and playing at a small NCAA program.

The native of Oakville, Ontario moved to Dayton, Ohio as a young child where he began playing football. He continued playing through high school in three different cities — Ottawa for grade nine, Toronto for grade ten, and Dayton for grade eleven and twelve — and earned a scholarship to Brown.

Hoecht excelled in college not only as a student-athlete, but also as an instructor.

“I had an excellent calculus teacher in high school and some of those concepts really clicked with me and made sense to me,” said Hoecht. “It started out with me just helping some of the guys in my class studying for tests or we would work on the problems together.”

The Business and Entrepreneurship student has served as a calculus tutor throughout his four-year stint on campus. The number of students Hoecht tutored grew to the point that he made his role official, signing up for Brown’s athletic tutoring program.

“(At) one point there was over 30 students showing up twice a week for these sessions. It became something that I wore like a badge of honour and enjoyed doing to give back to the team.”

“(Football) is who I am at this point. It’s what I love doing and it’s what challenges me. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s everything I’ve wanted to do and succeed at.”

NCAA defensive tackles are typically expected to play at or above 300 pounds, carrying weight that will help them in the run-heavy American game. Hoecht bulked up to 310 pounds as a junior when the Bears switched to a three-man defensive front, but felt it limited his effectiveness.

“That wasn’t a healthy weight for me. It wasn’t what I felt comfortable with. It wasn’t what I was good at.”

Hoecht dropped to 285 pounds for his senior year and has since put on an additional five pounds of muscle in preparation for the bench press at the combine.

“I think 290 is a comfortable weight for me. It’s where I feel more athletic, more explosive and where I think I’ll be the most successful.”

The CFL’s large field requires all defenders — even interior linemen — to cover ground quickly and efficiently. His current frame of six-foot-four and 290 pounds makes Hoecht an ideal fit for the Canadian game.

Hoecht is set to participate in Bryant University’s pro day on March 26 but has also accepted an invitation to the CFL combine, which starts its testing the following day. He plans on fully participating in both events despite the narrow timeline.

The defensive lineman started four games as a freshman before becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore. He recorded 158 total tackles and 17 sacks with the Bears, which are impressive statistics for a defensive tackle.

Hoecht’s size and production are enough for some scouts to speculate that he will be a first-round pick in May’s draft. His Ivy League education may give teams pause, however, given the recent history of top-achieving academic prospects filing for early retirement.

Dartmouth product Garrett Waggoner ended his CFL career in 2016 after two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to pursue his own business. Running back Ryder Stone, another Dartmouth graduate, recently announced his retirement following two years with the Montreal Alouettes due to injury concerns.

Hoecht says teams have no reason to fear him moving on from football anytime soon.

“Football is all-consuming and becomes one of those things that is burned into your DNA. It becomes who you are,” says Hoecht. “I’ve played football since third grade and in no world do I see myself really having the passion to go do something else.”

“(Football) is who I am at this point. It’s what I love doing and it’s what challenges me. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s everything I’ve wanted to do and succeed at.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.