Nov. 4, 2005
By Katie Stuhldreher
Most poets can’t hit a quarterback hard enough to separate his shoulder. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t attend Catholic universities. Most college football players don’t have time to work three jobs, maintain a high grade-point average, and engage in volunteer work. Irish fifth-year senior linebacker and co-captain Brandon Hoyte is not most people.
In fact, he is the exception to almost every rule. More of a self-proclaimed leader than a follower, Hoyte has little interest in limits. His parents moved from Trinidad to Harlem when Hoyte was three-years-old in order to create better educational and social opportunities for him. Since then, Hoyte has seldom allowed any opportunity to pass him by–whether it be academic, athletic, spiritual, or career-oriented.
“In Harlem, there is such a strong focus on education and this was instilled in me at an early age. I don’t want to limit myself. I don’t want anyone to ever say: `Brandon Hoyte is better than this,'” says Hoyte.
This drive and determination carried Hoyte from Harlem to Brooklyn to New Jersey to South Bend, and finally to the head of Charlie Weis’s emerging football dynasty. At the beginning of the 2005 season, Hoyte’s teammates voted him — along with quarterback Brady Quinn — as team captain. Such trust could not have been better placed.
Hoyte distinguished himself as a leader on the football field in the 2004 season, playing in every game, finishing second on the team in tackles with 74 — 38 of which were solo tackles — and also tied for second on the team in tackles for loss with a career-high eight, including three sacks. The senior linebacker also forced three fumbles on the season and recorded a career-high 16 tackles against Navy.
“The guys picked me as captain — which is a tremendous honor — because I must have been doing something right. Play with passion — that’s what it comes down to. Everyone knows how much you love the game and how you play — just play with passion,” says Hoyte.
Hoyte’s teammates also said that they chose him as captain because he is always ready and willing to step up and execute for the team no matter the circumstances. He came on the scene for the Irish in 2002 under desperate circumstances when he filled in at linebacker for injured teammate Courtney Watson.
In that first career outing, Hoyte recorded eight tackles and one sack against Maryland, proving to the coaching staff and to the team that he was ready and willing to become an integral part of the Irish defense. He took it from there, taking second team All-America honors from The Sporting News.
Hoyte’s intensity on the field has always been one of his greatest assets. “Something just clicks when you cross the white lines. You can’t turn it on and off. It turns itself on,” says Hoyte.
So far this season, Hoyte’s intensity shows no signs of burning out. Through seven games, he leads the Irish defense in tackles with 49, including four for loss. He also has Irish individual game highs for sacks with two against Pittsburgh and tackles for loss with four and half against Pittsburgh.
When asked what his goals for this season were, Hoyte responds frankly, “Quite simply to win every game from here on out. I think Coach [Weis] said it the best: Win out.”
As a captain, Hoyte’s responsibilities on the team do not end on the field. He also serves as a liaison between the coaching staff and the rest of the players via Weis’ new Leadership Committee, which is composed of 10 players representing offense, defense, and special teams. Hoyte said that even in his very first conversations with Weis when he was hired last winter, he kept the interests of the team at heart.
Brandon Hoyte has played a key role on the Notre Dame defense for three seasons from his linebacker position.
Hoyte told Weis that he did not want to spend his final year at Notre Dame as a rebuilding year in which the team would struggle to finish with a winning record. Weis assured him and the rest of the team that winning would always be a top priority.
“Even though it’s been such a short period of time, I think that Weis has helped me the most. The thing about getting a new coaching staff is that they don’t know you — know where you’re from or what you’ve been through or anything like that. But he came from coaching a professional team in the NFL and he’s taken Notre Dame to a professional level,” says Hoyte.
If nothing else, Hoyte is a team player. Despite not being a Catholic, Hoyte attends pre-game masses with the team because he says that he views Mass as part of the Notre Dame football tradition and part of his commitment to his teammates.
“I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness until right before I came to Notre Dame. It was just something that I wanted to do for myself,” says Hoyte.
“I look at pre-game masses as a team thing. I do it to be with my teammates and be part of the team. This is the way it’s been done for a long time, and we go out on the field together, so we do this too.”
Hoyte stresses that while at Mass, each man can offer his own prayers in his own way. He says that the unitary aspect of the team coming together to do something spiritual before taking the field is the important part.
At the end of the day, there are few things that Hoyte wouldn’t do for his teammates.
“I have such high respect for my teammates. If anything, I want to stress that because those guys put in so much work and so much effort and I just respect them so much. At the end of the day, I’m honored to be their teammate,” says Hoyte.
In addition to football, one of Hoyte’s favorite hobbies is writing poetry. He has been published several times and even reads his poetry on campus.
“It’s great because I can do it anywhere. I can go anywhere and just write down my thoughts and it’s like nothing else is around. It’s great,” explains Hoyte.
In high school, the subject of much of Hoyte’s poetry was love, but most recently he’s been putting into verse his emotions about football. Anyone lucky enough to hear a dramatic reading of his latest poem, Gameday, will discover that Hoyte puts just as much passion into creating lyrical lines in his poetry as he puts into destroying offensive lines in the stadium.
“Everyone’s always asking what it’s really like on the field. So I thought I’d try to write it down in my poetry,” says Hoyte.
Although Hoyte is committed to his role on the football team and his artistic endeavors, he is also committed to his education. He says that academics were the primary motivation for attending Notre Dame.
“I came here for the opportunities,” remarks Hoyte.
“You can go anywhere else in the country and the opportunities are unmatched. There are schools that have great tradition. There are schools that have great football. There are schools that have great alumni support and connections. But in my honest opinion, there is no other school in the country that puts it all together at this level.”
The 22-year old poet hasn’t wasted any time while at Notre Dame. He has earned Academic All-District honors in 2002 and 2003 while pursuing a double major in business management in the Mendoza College of Business and psychology in the College of Arts and Letters.
Hoyte hopes to pursue his interest in commercial real estate following his football career. However, he has taken his education outside the classroom to gain useful experience in his field of interest.
“I really like to read outside of class and I read a lot about real estate. They say that real estate is one of the safest investments to make. And then it’s cool because I can bring this stuff up with professors even outside of class,” says Hoyte.
Hoyte even rents out a house in South Bend to gain experience. He was also part of Bullwinkle’s, a mini-restaurant in Dillon Hall operated by students wanting to learn about business and finance when he lived there.
In an interview with Irish Eyes, Hoyte said, “We put in the money and then learn all about the accounting and finances. We do the shopping, find out how much we can charge, cook and then sell the food.”
In addition to this job, Hoyte also spent time working as a computer consultant in the Office of Information and Technology while at Notre Dame. He also used his business and computer skills to help out at Kaneb Teaching and Learning Center as a manager’s assistant.
Hoyte also enjoys working with children. While living at home in New Jersey, Hoyte volunteered his time to work with children suffering from brain injuries.
Although Hoyte has lightened his extracurricular load a bit this year, no one can dispute that he made the most of his time under the Golden Dome and took the spirit of Notre Dame to heart.
While he will leave Notre Dame at the end of this year, Hoyte plans to continue the athletic and professional pursuits that he initiated in South Bend.
“Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to play in the NFL and further my education in commercial real estate,” says Hoyte.
Hoyte, however, is far from finished with the Irish. When asked what his greatest experience has been during his career at Notre Dame, he quickly answers, “I don’t think I’ve had it yet.”