For Season 3 Episode 7 of Slingin it with QB Velocity we got a chance to sit down and talk to current Los Angeles Rams Defensive Lineman Mike Hoecht.
Mike was born and raised in Canada until he moved into the USA. He then attended Brown University for four years playing as a defensive lineman.
In the episode, we talk about his time playing in Canada as a kid, the culture around football up north, his time at Brown, and his time trying to get into the NFL.
When was the first moment you fell in love with the game of football?
So, I've been playing football since the 3rd grade and at that point I was in Ohio and the community I was in, everything kind of centered around Friday Night Lights football and went all the way back to the Peewee days of football. That's just the best.
And so, I got really into it then. I think it really started the love of the game sort of grew once you hit high school and you start to, you know, play some real football. When I was in Pop Warner Football, I was an offensive lineman because I was too heavy to run the ball. But then in high school, that restriction was lifted, and they started handing me the rock and I was a fullback in high school, which was just so much fun.
And it's one of those sports that the teams are so big, you get so much personality in the locker room that it becomes just part of your life and part of your friends and those guys just become your family, so you know it is. That sort of culture of the sport has always been something that has really been attractive to me.
Do you miss running the ball at all?
I mean that was more of a high school gig you can definitely get away with it then. But I don't know if you would be able to get away with it now. But I can still see myself pulling a little fullback package out of the back pocket.
How different is the culture of football in Canada than in the United States?
Yeah, that's a really good question. That's actually something that I found to be really interesting. Kids in Canada doesn't really have sort of the Friday Night Lights vibe to it, especially where I was, you know, we would play games Wednesday afternoons and we would get let out of school at like 2:30. To go, you take whatever bus and then we would just play a game on a Wednesday afternoon, which was kind of a foreign concept to me, which was cool.
Just because at that point it becomes pure love of the game. You know, little anecdote from that. There was a game we were playing, and I was in Toronto at this point, playing from a high school and it is pouring rain like it is just kind of a gross day outside, football weather obviously, but my mom is the only one sitting in the stands with like an umbrella watching the game and that to me is proved out like, ‘Oh, we’re a football family’ and she's going to be there, rain or shine. I don't think you've got a lot of that in Canada. But besides that, I think you know I want to clarify that there's some really, really good football, in Canada, and I think it's less run through the high schools. I think you've got a lot of it. There's a lot of these city teams and regional teams that you can play for. So, I played, I think about half a season for the Metro Toronto Wildcats. Before halfway through the season, we moved, so I obviously couldn't play for them anymore.
But that's where I think you know. You get a lot of high-level competition in Canada and a lot of a lot of the guys who are playing in leagues like that. They're looking to, you know, go play in the US for college, or if not, there's a lot of really good schools that run Canadian style football in college, you know.
So, Queens in Western house have a really big rivalry. I know like Laurie's got some good guys come out of there and so. I would say most guys look towards playing D1 or D2 ball in the States and then you know, but or if they want to stay in Canada.
They will go to some of these schools and then something can get picked up in the CFL Draft as well. So, it is not like there is still good football happening there. It is just not the culture of Friday Night Lights exist.
Were you a big fan of the CFL growing up?
I cannot say I was, you know, a massive fan. Just because I didn't get a ton of exposure to it. But you know, it was always one of those things that you know it's there. So, you know if you're a football junkie, you're going to get your hands on some football.
I wrote like there's always, you know, the great video highlights of the biggest CFL hits. And when you have receivers and full motion at the snap of the ball like come into crack ends and linebackers you get some big time plays so you know you can find some pretty spectacular highlights there.
What do you think about the potential CFL and XFL merger?
It could be good. I think anything that sort of develops, you know talent and allows guys to continue playing. And I think a lot of these spring leagues that have tried usually fall short financially or cannot recruit talent and so the bigger the pool of guys, the better the competition is going to be, and I am obviously no expert in that sort of that area, but I have trouble seeing a lot of downside for you growing the competition and getting guys more exposure. Even just having football on in the spring. I think they would do a lot of good things for fans.
Found interesting was when the AAF was going on. They were experimenting with the new rules and they were talking different things out. You know they were even incorporating like gambling into it and so it could also serve as sort of a testing ground for professional sports.
Trying out different rules and being able to see ‘Does this work? Does this not work? People like this, People like that’ and you know it gives them sort of an experiment to be able to try things to make the sport better.
How have you been able to preserve during the pandemic?
So back when I was in, it would have been around March of last year. So right when everything started that was right in the height of pro days. For me, when everything started to shut down I kind of had a bit of a panic moment that I wasn't going to get my shot, I wasn't going to get the looks.
My pro day got cancelled. I had a couple of workouts planned with the 49ers and with the Bengals, both of which got cancelled. The 49ers one got cancelled the day of which was heartbreaking at the time. So then at that point I sort of decided, well, there's two options here. You can just not do anything and hope for the best. Or you can leave less up to chance.
And so, I went out the very next day and recorded a virtual pro day. So I did all the normal stuff I do in a pro day and I put together my 40 time, a 5-10-5, and three cones. I also did a broad jump. I got a vert done, too.
I found the trainer eyes with my coil strength conditioning up in Woburn. I was there and I recorded it virtually cause they had all the equipment and so I could put together a tape that I could send out and then I had my agent start sending that to everybody. You can, you know, get eyes in front of him. And then you know, I also started to put together stuff with me running routes as a tight end and stuff, just going through bags running through drills and that was just not leaving any avenue unexplored. Just because, you know, all you really need is one person to be impressed by your tape, like what they're seeing, and that's all you kind of need because I think once you sort of get your foot in the door, it's a lot easier to stay than it is actually getting that foot in the door. Without a pro day coming out of a small school like Brown, that's pretty difficult to do, so you just need as much exposure as possible and cast a wide net and just kind of see what grabs. So that was sort of my process going through. Managing the pandemic and sports at the very beginning and then I signed with the Rams.
In May that night I immediately flew to California and started training as best I could. Started just preparing for the season and then as far as the actual season when you know it was. I think they held it really good job about putting on a pretty good product as far as you know everything seemed pretty safe.
The rules seem to keep guys for the most part. Being able to continue to play now. We obviously had cases and we had a certain point this season. Almost every single team had to go and do intensive protocols, but as far as like an actual season went, it wasn't that disruptive.
Now, we had no fans in the stands, you know. Even with no fans in the stands, the amount of noise that was being pumped in was still pretty loud. And you know, I've never really gone to like a big, massive, power five school so the noise level was fairly comfortable for me.
I think it’s pretty good because we [The Practice Squad] got to travel to every single game, which normally doesn't happen in a regular non-covid year and then you know you got so much extra exposure because they had to keep everybody together at all times which is really nice for me and I think that it's just additional things that i can post roman grow from.
Do you think all the different drills that you did set yourself apart from the rest?
I think I knew going into my pro day that I was going to test really well. I ran a 4.21 shuttle which compared to the combine interior defensive linemen that would have been the fastest. Would have run the third fastest 40, as well. I would have been tied for 5th for the vert jump, so I knew my numbers were going to pop a little bit and but then you know that's not the only thing that sort of factors into what guys look at. Those are obviously good numbers for people to kind of talk about.
It gives you sort of like a baseline comparison of the physical attributes that he has, but I think you know my tape definitely helped talking to our defensive line coach Eric Henderson here. He really liked the fact that you know I was making plays outside of the box.
I was making plays all over the field and you could sort of see the level of effort put into each and every play and I think he really liked that because that's what he was looking for and then combined with the actual physical numbers I think that was probably what did a lot of it for me.
Do you have a particular drill that you like to do?
I would say as far as training goes, you know I've practiced with a whole bunch of different coaches and trainers throughout my time, and I think you know definitely it's good to get well rounded types of movements, so I find that it's really helpful to work with different trainers. And get different perspectives and sort of find what things are kind of working for you. I mean, at the end of the day, no matter what somebody tells you, you're going to get out of it what you put into it, so you know certain strength coaches.
Certain trainers will have different philosophies on what they're trying to accomplish. Versus you know another one, and it's really experimenting with it. Just trying to find out what works for you really, really well. Something the transition from I would say college to the pros, something that's been really important that I found is the recovery aspect of it.
I find that you know if you recover well, you know you'll feel great the next day and be able to train just as hard. And for me, I really like, you know, there's a lot of things that you can get told to do that like help, but just 10 minutes stretch after a workout you know will do wonders for you and then do like another 10-minute stretch later in the night. I find that you know any amount of like cold tubs, hot tubs, saunas.
No, all these different VFR's normal tags, they're all helpful but nothings helpful but just being able to stretch and just keeping your muscles loose and relaxed. You know, but it's also you know, the process that I've been going through now is sort of really figuring out how my body works, what things you know make me feel good.
What things help you train harder or what things don't work? Where are some of the areas of things that I've said that I've been told that? You know, I haven't really verified whether they worked out or not, and so I'm really trying to dive and do a deep dive of like myself and really be able to find data that backs up whether something is working or not.
And you know, data can come from anywhere. It can come from, you know, I wear an Apple Watch, like I collect data and that way. And then there's also like an intuitive feel. How do I actually feel? And I would think for a lot of the guys you know that are coming up and that are training.
I would find what makes you feel good and what's actually helping you perform and then find a way to measure and find a way to be able to say I am seeing the improvement. So, whether that's. You know tracking what you eat and just making like a quick you know, sort of. It takes 2 minutes to kind of quickly look.
Lot of what you eat and then just give yourself like quick notes of I felt really good at this day and that way if you do that for a couple of weeks, you'll have sort of a log. And these are the days that I trained the hardest. I felt the best on these days when I did those things.
And so, I find that athletics is very, very individualized, in that you kind of have to find what works for you, and the reason you know that is because everybody's body is going to be different. Everybody is going to respond to things differently, so. You get told to do a whole bunch of different things, and you've been having experienced so many different trainers. You really got to find what the best things are for you and that comes.
Actually, taking the time to log things and figure things out and be sort of dedicated to and not really super attached to any individual thing. If you can't find any reason to any support for something helping you, then you probably don't need to do it because energy is everything you know you got to be able to.
Manage your energy as much as your time, and if you're expending whole bunch energy doing something, you're not getting any tangible results. It's probably time to move on and find something that you can actually benefit from, and that's been sort of my journey in the last.
I would say 6 to 8 months was finding out. You know exactly what things are good for me. What things really work? You train this much and doing things this way versus another way. What sort of foods help before it's sort of supplements help I can you know?
I obviously can't make any recommendations because everybody's different, but I would very much implore other people too. Really find out what their body likes and doesn't like, and then you know once you figure out those things, continue to develop those things and then don't be afraid to explore other things and see how they feel and if they work at them, end. If they don't get rid of them.
What was your recruiting process like?
So, I did my freshman and sophomore year in Canada, and then I did my junior and senior year in Ohio. So again, in Canada, like I said earlier, it is very much less predicated on your actual high school and more the regional teams, which I think is a very different sort of landscape, and I wasn't recruited out of Canada necessarily.
I was more recruited, similar to how most people kind of go through it in the US where you produce your high school tape, and you go out. Interesting for me though, was I was a fullback and I wanted to play defensive line. Now I did play defensive line in high school as well, but I was getting 25,30, 35,40 carries a game.
We were a triple option team, so I was very much offensive dominated in high school. Which was awesome. It was so much more, but then the summer before senior year, my mom and I went on a road trip and we just started hitting basically any school that we had interest or that had interest in me and I was also interested in.
So, I think we hit Butler, Lehigh, James Madison, Cornell, and Brown. You know, all these types of schools DI AA type schools, and so the big exposure for me was going to the actual camps. Because all these schools they ran recruiting camps, and they'll have their guys come in and run through workouts. And I think specifically for me, my mentality was like this is my one shot.
This is sort of my make it or break it moment and every single one was super important to me because it doesn't matter whether you get an offer from every single one. One you might learn one thing at 1 camp that helps you get the offered the next one. So, every single, every single drill that we did. You know I was sprinting to the next drill.
I was the first one in line every single time. You know, I was always taking as many reps as possible because you know everybody is fighting for reps in front of all these scouts and coaches. You got to make sure to be able to get your reps and then take extra reps if you can. If there's opportunity to.
I have got two good stories, one for when I was at the Butler camp. I didn't know this at the time, but it was a required helmet, and I did not have a helmet so I just kind of said you know, damn the torpedoes I'm going to do it anyways and I was doing all these like tight end drills and defensive guys are wearing their helmets. I'm not wearing a helmet and I'm still going up trying to fall in catching balls and, you know, just playing ball with them and doing defensive line drills. I got a couple bumps and bruises here and there, but you know, that was definitely worth it.
Then when I finally went to Brown and Brown was my number one choice and so I did that camp last. Just because I wanted as much practice, getting ready for my number one choice. And you know, between every single drill that we did. I was sprinting to the next one, so I was very first in line. I guaranteed myself at least one rep in every single drill that we did.
Then at the very end when you know they called everybody back into the middle. It was just a beeline sprint. This one other kid and I got into a kind of foot race to be the first ones to center race and I beat him, and I think that probably made a really good impression on the coach. Because that's what coaches at the college level are really looking for, I think. I think that it's kind of hard to judge too much talent based on high school and one day at a camp, but I think that they, if they can find guys with good character guys with a strong love game, guys who are willing to put in the work.
I think a lot of college coaches will be able to mold them into good players. And its colleges such you know intense physically as far as like winter workouts, offseason programs like it is very intense and so they're looking for guys who they think they're going to be able to handle it as well as guys that they think. You know, I might. I can turn him. He has the raw materials. I can turn him into a ball player. So, I think you know good advice for anybody going through that would be one. Make sure you get your reps in and be first in line no matter what, because it's time constricted. And if you're at the back of the line, you might not get a rep.
Then second, make sure that you show that you have the raw materials and that you also have the passion in your heart that you're going to put effort into it for 4-5 years and give them that. You know a great four or five years.
What made Brown your top choice?
I think it was definitely the combination of how they run their academics through the open curriculum where you can take a lot of classes that are outside your field of study so you can get really good exposure to other things.
And then you know the pass/fail option also makes managing sports and academics easier at the same time. Really helpful. And then I also just really liked the culture of the coaches and the culture of the program and just the entire vibe of the actual team.
You know, what was really, really appealing to me was gritty. It was like James Devlin and Zak DeOssie. Like we're going to punch you in the face, and then we're going to walk out, and you know that's going to be it. And so, I really, really liked that aspect of it. It felt like home for me.
Was it difficult managing school and football?
Yeah, I mean, it is difficult. It takes a lot of effort to make sure that you're getting things done. I think what's really, really helpful in a team environment is you have four years of guys with 100 guys in the locker room, all of which that have gone through it. They have done things and try to help with courses that they've taken already. They know who to talk to, so I think if you're good about, you know leveraging that sort of connection and not being afraid to speak up and ask, like ‘hey, how did you go about doing this?’ or ‘How did you manage this or what? What's a good class to take? Or is this class too much for the fall when we're in season? Should I wait to take it?’ For the spring sort of answers to questions like that are always really helpful so you know I imagine doing it solo it would be more difficult but it's definitely a lot easier when you have you know 100 other guys who you can rely on.
What was it like being picked up by the Rams?
It's pretty spectacular. You know you as anybody will tell you, you watched the draft and you know, everybody's just overcome with joy when that happens. And it was pretty much like that. So, there was a few remaining people on campus at that point.
I was still on campus and we were all just like hanging out all day. You know, watching the draft waiting for the calls? Talk to my agent when the phone call finally comes. It was a pretty spectacular moment. You know I had some my closest friends there and it was just a really amazing experience.
Credit to those guys because those guys really made it feel special for me too. So, you know, it's just an unbelievable experience getting that call, having everything kind of come full circle and finally make it because you know you put in all that work for the Pro Day.
It gets cancelled and you know you never really know until you get the call. You know I had a pretty good idea that I was going to land somewhere, but it's obviously stressful, managing and going into it.
But when it's finally done, it's just big sigh of relief, and then it's joy for about an hour and then you realize that you're going to be in the same room as Aaron Donald. And you better start running and getting in shape and bench pressing and doing all these things that are going to be required of you in about 5 months.
Who gave you the call?
They ran it through my agent, so you know, I talked to my agent and because he was talking to a couple different teams and then eventually said like the Rams called. You know obviously your number one choice. They have the best offer like this is the one we should take. You know.
So, I called my parents and then it was a done deal at that point. And then you know later that day, like you get the Rams people coming in and collecting information, getting ready to send you everything. They're just trying to figure everything out.
Then you know it was the next day that I got because it was late on the East Coast when I got the call, so it was later that I started talking to Coach Henderson our defensive line coach and started talking to some of the other coaches.