Union Academy hires Hoover
Union Academy's football program is now under the direction of Brad Hoover, one of the most popular players in Carolina Panthers history.
Hoover, a former fullback who played nine seasons in the NFL (2000-09) after going undrafted, has been away from the game since retiring four years ago.
The 36-year-old said he jumped at the opportunity to become the Cardinals' new head coach.
"My first thought was this was an opportunity that I was very interested in," Hoover said. "It's an opportunity to teach and coach and be an impact on something that I'm really excited about."
Hoover replaces Lynn Keziah, who started the varsity program in 2009 and accumulated a 14-31-1 record over four seasons.
The Cardinals have been to the 1A state playoffs all four years and won a playoff game in each of the last two seasons.
Hoover, who will teach physical education, looks forward to the opportunity to influence young people.
"What the school stands for is a character school and that's what is really going to come out of these kids," he said during a press conference held at the school Monday evening. "That's one thing I want to push as I get to learn about these kids is what kind of character they have and how they are going to play on the field.
"When it comes down to it we want to be able to win football games but that's not the ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to come in here and get these kids to learn the skills that I once learned to become a better part of my life in the game. ... I feel I have a vast knowledge to share with these kids of how to become better. I have a lot of things in my head of how I want to implement things. I won't know how to implement those things until I know what the character and the core of this group of kids is made of. That will be the determining factor of how we go forward."
Hoover first cracked the Carolina Panthers' roster as a tailback and made a name for himself as a rookie in a Monday night game against Green Bay when he rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in a 31-14 victory.
Hoover hopes to instill his determination into the Cardinals' program.
"The best thing is I've had good coaches along the way that have taught me a lot of the principles that I believe in, how to play the game and to do it at a very high level," he said. "I've absorbed that throughout time to improve my game. Now I think it's time for me to take those skills to impact other kids to improve their game. That's what I'm here to do.
"There are going to be ups and downs but we're going to learn from that, we're going to make it better and we're going to establish a tradition of being consistent in winning."
Hoover acknowledges the Cardinals have limited facilities, but is encouraged that a new gym is being built that will house a much-improved weight room.
"Honestly, that's the struggle right now," he said. "It's something that I thought at first I would be a little intimidated about. I'm actually not, I'm actually motivated by it because it gives me an opportunity to mold it into what I want it to be with the help of Union Academy. ... That's something I can't control right off the bat but I'm going to push as hard as I can to make those situations better."
Hoover, who started at fullback on the Panthers' Super Bowl team in 2003-04, will see what he has in the talent department before deciding on a scheme for his players — though he does have plenty of ideas swirling in his brain.
"Deep down inside I've got ideas and a lot of ideas but until I figure out what my personnel is like it doesn't really matter," Hoover said. "I can put on paper or sit out here and spit ideas until I'm blue in the face but if my personnel and the guys I'm playing do not fit those schemes, it's not worth it. It's going to take a while and it's going to be an evolution of how I put this together. I'm going to have to get to know their strengths and weaknesses as I get to know them and figure out what fits."
Hoover has had the rare opportunity in the football world of staying in one state his entire career.
He graduated from Ledford High in nearby Davidson County and went on to star for the Catamounts of Western Carolina.
"I guess you could call it luck," Hoover said. "I just happened to be in the right situation at the right time. I've always looked at it as opportunity is what you make of it. You either step up or it passes you by. It's how you handle that. They're giving me an opportunity here and I'm going to make the best of it just like anything I've done throughout my career.
"I was able to go to Western Carolina and play, it was an opportunity and I made the best of it that I could. Ended up coming to Carolina and lasted 10 years. It was an opportunity I was grateful for. I hope this is the next step no longer as a player but now as a coach, an educator, to make that difference. I don't see it going in my mind any differently just because of my passion for the game and my passion to make an impact on kids."