Spartan Nation Exclusive: MSU/Browns QB Brian Hoyer talks Recovery, Johnny Manziel, Connor Cook & Plenty More!
Brian Hoyer has worked hard for everything he’s achieved in his football career. Nothing has come easy for the former Michigan State quarterback.
Faced with a serious knee injury and new competition at quarterback, Hoyer has remained positive and focused, putting lessons learned from MSU head coach Mark Dantonio to the test. Like the Spartans football program, Hoyer is ready for more.
Hoyer caught up with Spartan Nation, discussing his recovery from an ACL injury, the future of the Spartans, and his outlook for the upcoming NFL season and beyond.
Michigan State faithful are familiar with Brian Hoyer. The two-year starter ushered in the Dantonio era with a pair of bowl appearances while laying the foundation for a successful football program.
Hoyer spent the first four seasons of his NFL career as a backup. He received his big break in the following offseason. Hoyer’s hometown team – the Cleveland Browns – came calling in search of a backup quarterback to Brandon Weeden.
The local product did not stay on the bench for long. Following two consecutive losses with Weeden at the helm, Hoyer received the starting nod over Jason Campbell. Hoyer replaced the injured Weeden better than anyone could have imagined. The North Olmsted, Ohio native led his team to two straight wins.
Everything came to a screeching halt on a Thursday night matchup with the Bills on October 3. Hoyer’s promising season ended with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Faced with a lengthy recovery, Hoyer was not fazed. He worked hard and recovered more quickly than anyone would have thought.
“For me, it was really my first injury ever besides a few concussions. I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was,” Hoyer said. “Having that mindset and going in knowing that I was going to have to work really hard to get back to where I was. Going through the process and seeing myself improve kept my spirits up, and I had good people surrounding me during my rehab. I had talked to a lot of people who had dealt with this injury. I gathered all sorts of opinions and formulated a plan that worked best for me.
“A lot of it has to do with the mental aspect, and I’ve always been pretty good at attacking things and being mentally tough. Sure, there were times when I hated it and it was tough, and I didn’t want to do another leg extension or anything like that, but I want to realize my goals, and getting healthy is the first step to getting out on the field. I knew how important it was, and I really pushed myself, probably moreso than my trainers would have liked. But in the end, it worked out.”
Hoyer was cleared six months to the day of his surgery, which was the best case scenario. When training camp rolls around, Hoyer will be ready to go.
“I feel really good, I feel really strong” he said. “I don’t really think much about my leg during football activities. I think it’s just another case of hard work paying off; when you put the work in, you’re going to see results.”
The Browns turned some heads by drafting Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft. The “Johnny Football” circus has already arrived in Cleveland, but Hoyer isn’t concerned.
“Everyone knew we were going to draft a quarterback, it was just who and when,” Hoyer said. “Now that that’s all figured out, it’s actually better because I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I can just practice and move forward.”
The 28 year old isn’t afraid of a little competition. Hoyer remembers how his coaches at MSU pushed him to work harder.
“Anywhere I’ve been, I’ve always had to compete for what I’ve earned. That’s one of the things I learned through Coach [Ken] Mannie and even transitioning between two coaches, everything is earned, not given,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think you ever want anything given to you because then you look at it knowing you didn’t really earn it. For me, whether it was at St. Ignatius, [with] the starting job my junior year…or Michigan State, or New England, I always had to compete for what I’ve gotten.
“Some people like to ask, ‘What do you like about playing football?’ A lot of people would answer, ‘Because I love the game.’ But for me, I love to compete, and football is the one thing that gives me the best outlet to utilize it. If I was playing checkers, I would compete. I think that kind of sums up my character, no matter what it is. I know that drives my wife crazy, but I’m just like that, I’m wired that way. I think competition always brings out the best in people, and I think I’ve always thrived on that.”
Hoyer has had a busy spring with everything going on, but he managed to sneak up to East Lansing for spring camp.
“I was actually back up there for spring practice for the first time since I left school there. You can just tell that it’s a different atmosphere,” Hoyer said. “They just took what we kind of started, and they’ve taken it to the next level.”
Hoyer acknowledges that his class helped to “right the ship,” but he gives much of the credit to the players who came after him and elevated the program to a new level.
“People have [taken] ownership over the program,” Hoyer said. “You could just see at Michigan State, even when I left, there was always some doubt from groups of people that we could be as good as they are now. Now you walk in and you can just see that the kids and the coaches know how good they can be and they’re working towards it. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re the #1 school in the Big Ten.”
A critical element of the program’s ascendance is Connor Cook. The junior quarterback guided the Spartans to a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl victory in 2013, one of the program’s most successful years in a long while.
Hoyer sees the makings of a great quarterback in the Hinckley, Ohio native.
“Connor and I have known each other since he was in high school. We have a great relationship: we text back and forth,” Hoyer said. “When I was up there, we sat in the quarterback meeting room and I spit out all the quarterback knowledge I could give those guys. I watched them practice. I think he’s going to be the leader of that team this year. I think those guys are going to look to him, and I think he’s ready for it. He’s so level-headed: he doesn’t get up, he doesn’t get down. Nothing really affects him as a quarterback, and I’m really excited to watch his development.”
With Cook at the helm, the Spartans have the potential to become a powerhouse program. Hoyer knows the key to making the dream a reality.
“It’s about making that a consistent thing. You don’t want to be a one-and-done, have a great year and then fall off,” Hoyer said. “The best programs are established, you look at Alabama, LSU, these teams are always in it for the National Championship or a BCS bowl. First you have to get to the BCS game, and now that they’ve made it, they need to make sure they maintain that drive.
“People always look at Michigan State as an underdog, now that they’ve won the Big Ten they have to realize that they’re the top dog,” Hoyer went on. “Everyone’s gunning for you, you’re going to get everyone’s best game. That’s the mentality that will be new, but you don’t have a better coaching staff in America that’s going to help those kids deal with that. I was there for the scrimmage, and I think they had a practice in full pads the day before, it was a two or three hour scrimmage. So I don’t think those coaches are letting up at all. They know that if you want to be a great program, you have to be consistent.”
The key to Hoyer’s success is the same: consistency. Hoyer had a few phenomenal games last season, but to keep his job as the starter, he must maintain that performance for an entire season.
Hoyer can’t wait for the opportunity.
“I would never want someone to just hand me a job,” he said. “When you go out and earn something fair and square by doing it the right way, you gain more trust and confidence in yourself.”
While looking ahead to this season, Hoyer also took a little time to ponder his future. Asked if he might consider a coaching job in the future, Hoyer said:
“I hope I’m still playing in 5-10 years: I’m only 28…I think I could be a good coach, but I see how hard our coaches work and after putting in a lot of hard work in over an NFL career, I don’t know if that would be fun. I don’t know if I could deal with the hours of a college or NFL coach. Even though I would be putting to waste some of the football knowledge I’ve accumulated, I think I could make a pretty good high school coach.”
Hoyer makes a pretty good NFL quarterback in the meantime.