Brad Hoover is used to proving people wrong.After going undrafted out of Western Carolina University, Hoover went on to a 10-year NFL career as a fullback for the Carolina Panthers.Hoover now has taken on a new challenge as first-time coach for Union Academy.“Every day out here has definitely been a challenge for me,” Hoover said. “I am trying to get my mind back in the most basic, fundamental form of football, and it is a learning process for me.“But I think being with these guys, who are playing for the love of the game, is also what attracts me to coaching. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”While Hoover, 36, hasn’t had a formal coaching job, he says he felt like a coach as he progressed in the NFL, helping younger players be professionals.Hoover said every coach he has played for, including former Carolina Panther coach John Fox, has affected his style of coaching. But Hoover said his high school coach, Dickie Cline (who coached Hoover at Ledford High and is now at Thomasville High) is the biggest influence.Hoover said he hopes all his knowledge will help him develop a football tradition at Union Academy, as the Cardinals program enters its fifth year without a winning season. Its best record was 6-6 in 2011; last year, the Cardinals went 5-7.Hoover says his players must learn to play with the same chip on their shoulders that he did.“Call it what you want to, but I always felt I had something to prove as a player,” Hoover said. “I want my guys to play with the same kind of edge. We know we are the underdogs, but we have go out and fight to show that we can be successful. We are trying to change the whole culture of this program.”Hoover’s players are eager to prove themselves.“We are definitely playing with that same chip on our shoulder, already,” Union Academy senior quarterback Craig Twele said. “That is the mentality that we have to have. We don’t always like being the underdog, but we are learning to embrace it and use it to our advantage.”Hoover’s hybrid offense, which will operate primarily out of the spread, with be led by Twele (6-foot, 175 pounds) who transferred from Weddington High.Twele has a variety of offensive weapons in the skill positions, which is his team’s strength according to Hoover. Those threats begin with senior Maliq Pando and junior Logan Pautz at wide receiver and senior tight end Will Walters.Cardinal running backs Christian Almeida, a junior and senior Matthew Schneider also figure heavily in the offense.Hoover said the offensive line should be strong, with juniors Olin Austin, Tyler Chambers and Zach Zupetz.“I am just trying to get each guy to go out and play to the best of their ability and do their job every play,” Hoover said. “If we can have that kind of focus, good things will follow.”Hoover’s defense will look similar to the offense, as most players will start both ways. Zupetz will be middle linebacker, with Almeida and Walters on the outside.The secondary also has a lot of experience, with Pando and Pautz on the corners and senior Jacob Hargett, who Hoover calls a “headhunting” type of player, and Schneider at the safety spots.Hoover’s coaching staff includes former NFL defensive lineman Damione Lewis, who played for the NFL’s Panthers and St. Louis Rams, and Ted Washington, a four-time pro bowler with a 17-year NFL career.The Cardinals coaches and players will be competing in a new league: the Yadkin Valley 1A conference, with Albemarle, Chatham Central, East Montgomery, North Moore, North Stanly, South Davidson, South Stanly and West Montgomery.No matter who they play, Hoover said, he expects to compete at a high level.“I have high expectations for this program,” Hoover said. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight. I know there are going to be ups and downs, but what will define us is how we react to those tough times.“Right now, we want to get better every day, every week.”
Sunday, Sep. 01, 2013
Ex-Carolina Panther Brad Hoover takes on a new challenge
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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