By Jeff Gallatin
For Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, stepping on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium wearing the uniform of his hometown team fulfills a gridiron dream that began years ago in North Olmsted.
Hoyer, grew up in a sport-focused family in which his father, Axel, ran a batting cage business and the children played multiple sports. For Hoyer, the well-known portion of his path through organized football includes starring at state power St. Ignatius High School, being a Big Ten starting quarterback for the Michigan State Spartans and then backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady with the New England Patriots and spending brief periods of time last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals before signing with the Browns this past offseason.
But that path through organized football actually began with the White Eagles, a team in the football league run through the North Olmsted Recreation Department.
“They were my first tackle football team,” Hoyer said with a grin recalling his time with the White Eagles, when he was in elementary school. “We had a great team; we were undefeated.”
Karl Kubb, Hoyer’s coach on the White Eagles, was a longtime coach and commissioner of the North Olmsted recreation league teams as well as serving many years as the PA announcer for the North Olmsted High School football games. For him, coaching Hoyer and his White Eagle teammates is one of his more vivid gridiron memories.
“They were probably my best team in more than 25 years of coaching,” he said. “They were undefeated and a great bunch of kids. Brian was the quarterback and the heart of the team. In all my years of coaching, he’s been my only one who’s made it to the NFL and the pros like that.”
Kubb said Hoyer making it to the pros is not a surprise to his old coach at all.
“No, he was something special in a lot of ways,” Kubb said. “First off, he was the team leader and he took care of his teammates. But even at that young age, he was doing what the really good quarterbacks do. He was reading defenses and knowing what he was doing out there so much better than most kids at that age. He would come over to the sidelines and it wouldn’t be just me telling him what to do out on the field. He would be discussing with me what would be the best plays to run out there based on what he was seeing.”
Hoyer recalls the conversations.
“We had some good runners on the team, and you know at that age, a lot of teams run a lot,” he said. “But I was a quarterback and I wanted to pass the ball, so we did it more than the other teams did and it worked for us.”
Kubb chuckled, remembering Hoyer’s skill as a quarterback.
“The other teams found out we could pass the ball pretty good with him and didn’t like having to face him,” Kubb said.
Since he was PA announcer for the North Olmsted High School varsity during Hoyer’s time at St. Ignatius, Kubb only got see Hoyer twice during his high school playing career, but said he saw his former star was continuing his upward rise.
“He just took the other teams apart,” Kubb said. “You could just see he was going to be playing at even higher levels.”
But Kubb emphasized there was more to Hoyer than just his passing arm.
“He was a leader and he’s just a quality person with other people,” Kubb said. ‘It showed even then. It comes from his family; they’re like that. His dad was always good about helping out in the community and running a business like that for kids to enjoy. They’re good people.”
Hoyer has similar feelings for his former coach.
“He was a good coach and he’s a good guy,” Hoyer said. “He does a lot for kids.”
Hoyer said his experience with the White Eagles is part of his strong football and sports foundation.
“Anytime you get experience like that, you use it to help build on your abilities as an athlete,” he said. “I learned from that time and have tried to learn from every experience I’ve had athletically. I played several different sports and loved playing them all. I think if you went around this locker room, you’d find just about all the guys played several different sports and enjoyed it.”
He said that desire to learn and prepare has helped him throughout his football career.
“It’s always helped me be ready to go out there with my teammates and do the job,” he said.
Browns general manager Mike Lombardi has been an advocate of Hoyer’s for several years, a fact which Hoyer said he appreciates and was certainly a factor in his joining his hometown team.
“Absolutely, I really appreciate his support,” he said. “I really didn’t see any opportunities coming at Arizona when they got Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, so I was glad the opportunity came about here.”
Although he is currently listed as a backup behind starter Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, Hoyer said he will be ready when there is an opportunity to play.
“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to be a starter when they get to this level,” he said, “and I always prepare myself as if I’ll be starting. That’s just how I do things, and I know I’ll be ready that way. “
And stepping onto the field as a quarterback in his hometown – for Hoyer it’s just living out a dream.
“Every kid who plays football dreams of playing in the NFL, and when you have that dream, you’re playing for your hometown or favorite team–and I’m getting to do that,” he said. “The team means so much to the community, it’s great being here and being a part of it.”