Oct. 22, 2004
By Ken Kleppel
For a man who is known for his ability to so eloquently and sincerely convey his thoughts on paper, it comes as no surprise that one simple, yet powerful, spoken message would leave an impression that might last a lifetime: Look at the Man in the Mirror.
Following the 2003 season the Irish coaching staff approached each member of the roster about the value of looking at himself–his season and, at another level, who he was–in the mirror.
Senior Brandon Hoyte accepted the call. And nearly a year later he embodies it.
“After that day I wondered whether I could look at myself in the mirror and say I gave everything,” says Hoyte. “I want with no doubt in my mind at the end of the season to know that I gave everything for the guy sitting next to me. For him to look at me in my eyes and say `I know you did give everything.'”
Call him a student-athlete, call him a poet, call him a true Notre Dame man–but of all these monikers there is one upon which Hoyte can ultimately come to terms with who he is and the type of person he is destined to become.
“I want to be passionate about everything I do in my life and to be able to be consistent,” says Hoyte. “That is one thing that I really wanted to obtain was consistency. At the end of the day I want to be able to say that I was able to keep my consistency.”
With that he can look himself in the mirror.
On the field he has consistently performed with a work ethic that sets the tone in the locker room and off the field he has consistently represented the University with an ambitious extracurricular schedule and an inviting smile that inevitably greets all those he comes into contact with. Through it all he has consistently overachieved and consistently persevered through adversity.
For a high school kid from New Jersey who boarded a 13-hour Amtrak ride on a one-way ticket and with only a pair of cleats, shorts, t-shirts and underwear on his person, he was not supposed to make a lasting impression on the Irish coaching staff, but instead Hoyte earned one–a recruiting phone call from former Irish assistant coach Steve Addazio that would result in a scholarship offer a few weeks later.
As a freshman he was not supposed to take on the team’s hardest hitter before playing a single down, but Hoyte did so head-first–as a freshman during pre-season camp, Hoyte challenged former Irish fullback Jason Murray during contact drills. Despite Murray’s reputation for obliterating linebackers, Hoyte survived the affair and achieved instant respect from his teammates.
For a five-foot, eleven-inch, 231-pound, supposedly undersized linebacker, he was not supposed to make an immediate impact, but in his first collegiate game he became the big man on campus. In the 2002 season opener against Maryland in a return to his home state of New Jersey, Hoyte replaced injured starter Courtney Watson and promptly recorded eight tackles and a quarterback sack. Fifteen starts later he has become an explosive weak-side linebacker with a nose for the ball.
For a varsity athlete with little or no background in creative writing he was supposed to move people with his might and not his words, but he influences others with emotion that spills from his pen and with a style that warms the soul–as the poet laureate of Notre Dame football, Hoyte has written poetry since the eighth grade. He has recited his writing at nearly a dozen community and campus outreach events.
For a twenty-one year old he was not supposed to bring to life a Boys and Girls Club, but someday–Brandon steadfastly promises–he will. Hoyte has dedicated his career to assisting those less fortunate.
Designed for inner city youth, Hoyte envisions a club that is academically oriented and has extra-curricular activities and the arts as its primary focus.
“We can take those underprivileged kids who show promise, put them in a prep program in order to ensure that they are getting the same opportunities and same training as kids who are in privileged situations that have great private schools where distractions are low, and then put them on an even level with other students,” says Hoyte. “It is going to be like a prep school for underprivileged children.”
And with that goal the Brandon Hoyte story begins to unfold.
“Sticking to my morals and sticking to what my parents have raised me to be is what drives me,” says Hoyte. “It might sound rudimentary but sometimes it is not always the bricks in the building that are important but rather the type of cement that is used to hold it together and keep it strong. To me it is the same aspect in morals and just doing that right thing.”
Brick by brick, layer by layer, Hoyte has constructed this house. And the foundation sets the most wonderful of examples for all to follow.
On Sunday evenings, Hoyte works for the Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies as a computer consultant.
On weeknights, Hoyte serves Dillon Hall as its amateur restaurateur at Bullwinkle’s.
On weekdays, Hoyte assists program and marketing manager Joellen Conrardy with planning development and technology in the John A. Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning.
When he is not on the gridiron or in a classroom, Hoyte helps organize Notre Dame football’s annual team service project Tackle the Arts as its chairman. He volunteers at the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Sample Street Boy’s and Girl’s Club of South Bend and participates in reading events at Edison Middle and McKinley Elementary Schools. He has also served as the emcee of the Notre Dame O.S.C.A.R.’s (Outstanding Student-Athletes Celebrating Achievements and Recognition) banquet held near the end of the academic year.
Brandon Hoyte has emerged as one of the best hitters on the 2004 Irish team.
“Off the field the kid is so busy and does so many different things that it is just amazing he could come to work everyday and do what he does,” says inside linebacker Mike Goolsby. “He is a total package–he is a total Notre Dame man as far as I’m concerned.”
“Brandon possesses a remarkable and innate sense of leadership, which is evident through his enthusiastic charisma, inspiring sense of discipline, and genuine empathy for the world around him,” adds Coordinator of Student-Athlete Development Eric Guerra.
Through it all, it is a sense of faith and family that holds the cornerstone in place. In November of 2000, Hoyte was baptized a Jehovah’s Witness after several months of intense spiritual growth
“Faith has been a stronghold for me namely because there have been so many distractions,” says Hoyte. “It works in the same way as learning from my teammates and from my parents. It helps me to stay on tract. It is like a center of me and any time I diverge from it, that is when things do not go my way. But I have always been fortunate to have my parents keep me on task.”
Both his parents have set the right example, and continue to ensure that Hoyte remains focused. His mother Elizabeth worked for Warner Brothers before leaving her position to devote full attention to raising Brandon’s sister Danielle. Brandon’s father Wayne moved his family from Trinidad to New Jersey when Brandon was three years old in order to provide his loved ones a better opportunity.
“My parents helped mold me,” says Hoyte. “They instilled in me that the proper priorities in life are morals and beliefs. Those are the key ingredients that are going to carry you through life, regardless of all the other things that surround it. They have been so great and I have been very fortunate to have two parents that are there for me to really keep me on track.”
This example is best illustrated in the form of inspiration that others–the children of South Bend and the student body at Notre Dame–draw from Brandon. Hoyte writes “exceeding expectations” on each autograph he signs in order to send what he believes is a worthy message to those seeking his signature. In reality, it makes sense that Hoyte never fails to do just that–exceed expectations–each day of his Notre Dame journey.
“He definitely always has a really good message behind him,” says senior Derek Curry. “I think his heart is one of the biggest things that I have seen. It is not just the words, but to show that he is actually living out the life that he talks about. I think that is one thing I learned–that there are people out there that are real.”
“I would not be here if it was not for someone else,” says Hoyte. “I have had great people in my life and I am really fortunate, so to give that to somebody else would be great. I’ve just learned that you need to have people in life. They say it takes a village to raise a boy. I just want to be part of that village.”
Take a final look in the mirror, Brandon. The man that is looking back at you has created a better village for others.
By taking full advantage of his Notre Dame opportunity Hoyte has given himself fully to the Notre Dame community. At the end of that day, this selfless spirit will materialize itself in the fulfillment of Hoyte’s personal Notre Dame dream–the same spirit has already done so for countless others.