If thereâ€™s one word that best describes Tyler Hoover, itâ€™s â€œswoll.â€
Slang for â€œbuffâ€ or â€œmuscular,â€ the word represents dedication to the weight room and is mostly applied to jocks.
The word perfectly suits Hoover, a self-described â€œmeathead.â€ The sixth-year defensive tackle refuses to take himself seriously, using terms such as swoll to poke fun at himself and make his teammates chuckle.
Hoover anchors the middle of the Michigan State defensive line, providing a big, veteran presence on one of the best defenses in the nation. The Novi, Michigan native has witnessed first-hand the ascent of Spartan football in the Mark Dantonio era. Enrolling at MSU in January of 2008, Dantonioâ€™s second year, Hoover has been there for the triumphs and tribulations along the way.
This year has been one of the best for Hoover. Heâ€™s been onboard for the teamâ€™s Rose Bowl run and steered the Spartans in the right direction with his stellar play. In 10 starts this season, Hoover has 30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Hoover recently spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. about his final game in an MSU jersey, his relationship with first-year defensive line coach Ron Burton and, of course, being swoll.
In a world of me first athletes Hoover is the exact opposite. He still plays football with a smile and realizes how fortunate he is to do it. Hondo recently said of Hoover, â€œIn all of my years covering sports, Hoover is one of the top five best human beings that I have covered. A product of an amazing family, you forget how great he is on the gridiron, because of how amazing he is as a young man. I love that my son wears his jersey and idolizes him. Hoover is one of the good guys.â€
When Ron Burton was hired in February to replace former defensive line coach Ted Gill, a few critics expressed doubts about the transition. But fansâ€™ fears were quickly alleviated, as Burton became a perfect coach for an experienced and talented defensive line.
Burton brings a sense of energy and excitement every day, which earned the respect of his new players. Burton doesnâ€™t act like a 21-year coaching veteran; heâ€™s an enthusiastic teacher of the game. Hoover was immediately impressed.
â€œThe character of that guy: heâ€™s an amazing person,â€ Hoover said. â€œTo have a role model, even if it was just for a year, like him is amazing. The amount of energy, the amount of love he puts into everything. You should see him when he comes into meetings, heâ€™s nailing on the table, heâ€™s the most pumped guy every day. To be hyped up about every single day of your work and thing you do is amazing.â€
Burtonâ€™s coaching methods work, too. His defensive line has helped shut down the run for much of the season, as the Spartans currently rank first in the nation with 80.8 yards per game allowed on the ground.
So whatâ€™s Burtonâ€™s secret?
â€œHeâ€™s great on technique, but with the coaching, itâ€™s repetitive,â€ Hoover said. â€œIf you donâ€™t get it the first time, he says, â€˜No, weâ€™re going back and weâ€™re going to do that again until you get it.â€™ Thatâ€™s what heâ€™s taught me: itâ€™s that repetition. It takes constant, every day work to actually master a technique.â€
As a result, Burton has formed close relationships with many of his players. He has become a father figure for some, including Hoover.
â€œItâ€™s a relationship Iâ€™ll have for the rest of my life,â€ Hoover said. â€œThatâ€™s what it comes down to. Iâ€™ll know him for the rest of my life. Iâ€™ll talk to him for the rest of my life. If I have any kind of situation Iâ€™m going through, heâ€™s one man I can call.â€
But in between serious meetings and intense practices, Hoover finds a way to enjoy himself. With his fun-loving personality, Hoover loves to keep things light, especially in practice.
â€œHow we practice is a grind. We go live, we tackle each other, and we get after it. Some guys will be, â€˜Man, this is tough,â€™ but Iâ€™m always laughing,â€ Hoover said. â€œNo joke, every play Iâ€™m smiling and laughing. I think when they hear me laughing and goofing off, even on a serious play, itâ€™s good be reminded thatâ€™s itâ€™s just a game.â€
Unfortunately for the Spartan Nation, Hooverâ€™s time in East Lansing is dwindling. The sixth-year senior has just one game left in his Spartan career. His journey has had its ups and downs. Hoover missed the 2008 and 2011 seasons due to injury, but on the positive end has seen Michigan State beat Michigan five out of six times.
As far as goodbyes go, few compare to playing in the Granddaddy of Them All: the Rose Bowl.
The Spartans will face a great test in Hooverâ€™s final time in Green and White on Jan. 1. Led by senior running back Tyler Gaffney, Stanford has a bruising ground game that can run over the stoutest of defenses. But the Spartans are ready for the challenge. Hoover wouldnâ€™t have it any other way in his last game.
â€œItâ€™s amazing. You look at them, and theyâ€™re from the Pac-12, but theyâ€™re just like a Big Ten team,â€ Hoover said. â€œThey run power, they run inside zone, they come downhill. Youâ€™ll actually see them get in a four-point stance with offensive linemen. Theyâ€™ll use their young offensive linemen as tight ends, itâ€™s amazing.
â€œItâ€™s going to be the frickinâ€™ bloodbath of the century. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re waiting for and thatâ€™s what our defense loves. We want a tough competition.â€