V V V V V V
WHAT DOES YOUR
By Tim Rohan
Photos by Marissa McClain
NAME MEAN TO YOUThequestion thatmadeBrady
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YORKTOWN, Ind. - Dave Tanner drove his light blue
Volkswagen Bug just down the road, past the corn stalks and
past the homes of all his players and boosters. Past the big
white water tower with "YORKTOWN" in green lettering,
with a tiger painted on the side.
He was on his way to interview Brady Hoke. He hoped
Brady could teach his linebackers how to make the perfect
fundamental tackle, but also join him in building a football
This town is all some knew. Generations lived and died
How would Brady Hoke fit in? What would his legacy be?
How would his name be remembered?
Tanner drove through the heart of Yorktown, a downtown
you could easily miss if you weren't looking for it.
Now, not much has changed on Smith Street since Tanner
coached the Yorktown football team in the 1980s. There's only
one barbershop, one florist, one stoplight - and three bars.
An old tractor is parked next to a shed. Houses line its main
street like it's a neighborhood. The close-knit community
strangles even its most urban area.
And if you're not looking close enough, you'll miss Merrill
Quate, a family man in a family town, sitting on a lawn swing
in his front yard, petting his dog Shelly and sipping a cup of
coffee. From afar his face wears a permanent frown, but his
wrinkles are deceiving. If youtake the time to talk to him, he'll
flash a toothy grin.
He looks out at the small downtown, calmly enjoying his
evening. He can see everything from his spot. You could never
tell, even talking to him, that Merrill has Alzheimer's disease.
He has good days and bad.
"Nothing going on in Yorktown," Merrill says turning to
the empty street behind him. "Kind of a dead-ass place."
Merrill grew up down the road in Muncie before movingto
Yorktown with his second wife Dottie. This is Dottie's home.
Born and raised. Her son Ty played for coach Tanner.
Dottie comes outside and seems to worry about Merrill.
They usually play Bingo every night with the other seniors of
Yorktown to keep Merrill sharp.
"He can't remember everything," she begins. "He can
remember his childhood, but he can't remember what hap-
She sighs as Merrill returns from his spot.
"Quiet little town," he says.
"The church is over there," he points. "The school is over
"It really is a nice town," Dottie adds. "It's home."
His family is here. Hers is too. She waves to an elderly cou-
ple riding their bikes across the street. All their friends are
Dottie sees them all when Yorktown plays its cross-town
rival Delta High School. It's standing room only for those
Ty still talks about his 16-tackle, two-sack game during his
senior year against Delta.
Ty's highschool buddies - Jeff Barr and Jay and Jesse Neal
- still meet him at Mr. Mouse, the bar around the corner, to
talk about the glory days.
But first, their old coach, Dave Tanner, had to pull up to
Brady's apartment that day, a few miles down the road but
a long way from Brady's world. Tanner was about to invite
Brady into his world.
Tanner needed to hire a linebackers coach, and Brady's
coach at Ball State had referred him as a player who used all
of his eligibility and needed a part-time job while he finished
Brady had no intentions of becoming a coach. After the
assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan, he thought it was his
duty to become a secret service agent to protect the President.
"Are you interested in coaching?" Tanner began. "And tell
me a little bit about your background."
Brady started talking about his mom and his dad, the two
people who always kept him on the path, no matter how much
he zigged and zagged.
Then he started talking about Laura, the girl he met in sev-
enth grade, the girl he married at Ball State, the girl who was
his best friend.
"Shoot, this is the guy I want," Tanner thought to himself.
"You've got values. You've got commitment. He's a family per-
Within five minutes of walking through the door, Tanner
decided this was his guy.
He stayed another two hours talking about life.
Brady Hoke remembers he had two goals at Ball State: "Play
football and probably drink every beer in Muncie, Indiana."
As a student, Laura would come home from work for lunch
and Brady would be outside throwing the football around with
"Brady, aren'tyou supposed to be in class?"Laura would ask,
looking at her watch.
"No, they cancelled it."
"Brady,"Laura said sternly. "The sun is shining. They did not
cancel class today."
She was right.
"I think it was something within Brady that he knew he need-
ed to buckle up - I mean, we were marriedfor goodness sake,"
Laura says now.
"He was a kid and needed to grow up."
The act continued until Chris Allen, Brady's linebackers coach
at Ball State, sat him down.
"What does your name mean to you?"Allen asked.
This was bigger than Brady. He didn't care that his own name
was being muddied, but what about his older brother Jon, who
played at Ball State? Or his parents? When Brady was out back
tossing the football, skipping class, he wasn't thinking how he
was muddying his family, his teammates, his school and his
coaches. They were why his name meant anything in the first
place - he represented them too. There were people in his life
worth choosing rightfor.
That day, Brady Hoke realized his name meant a whole lot to
f/ / VH Al
This day is dreary, so the sun isn't out to cast a shadow of
the tall water tower, onto Yorktown High School. It's a Mon-
day and the JV team is playing Delta, but there are fewer peo-
ple in the stands than players on the field.
Cars drive up and down Tiger Drive, right over the yellow
paw prints painted on the road leading up to the school.
Brady, Tanner and the other coaches stayed up all night
painting those paw prints. That was the week before they
played Delta in '82. Now it's tradition - one of the few lasting
physical marks Brady left on the school.
But what measures the true mark a coach leaves?
You have to get around the right people to hear stories
about those 1981 and 1982 seasons - Brady's only two years
at the school.
You have to find one of the boys Tanner used to show Ball
State highlighttape to before their games. Jarring hits and big
plays flashed. Every defensive clip had Brady in it.
Few people heard the stories Brady told Tanner, about
gouging players' faces so they wouldn't want to run to his side
When he was at Ball State, Western Michigan's scouting
report said: "Very physical football player, who's very smart.
And will knock the crap out of you."
Fresh out of college, he was already a celebrity at Yorktown.
The kids didn't know Brady wasn't the most athletic guy on
the field, or that he had to become a technician, really learn
the game and how to study film, to develop into a team cap-
That didn't matter. Those boys never forgot how Brady ran
sprints with them, winning every race, and how he knocked
them over when he demonstrated drills. They never forgot
how hard he slapped the side of their helmets when they made
him proud and how they smiled even though it hurt.
They never forgot how he made them laugh, then looked
them in the eye when it was time to work: "Do we have a prob-
lem here? This is what we're goingto do in practice today: I'm
goingto push you."
They wouldn't let him down.
He was old enough to be your brother, but he coached like
a father. He'd ask about school, their families, but he could
already tell if something was wrong. Then he'd talk to them
The closer he pulled you, the more you grew.
He knew which ones to push and which ones needed anoth-
Just ask Jeff Barr how much he knew about playing line-
backer before Brady Hoke got there.
Jeff would tell you how his style was simple before he met
Brady: line up and run to the ball like a maniac. How Brady's
practices consisted of hitting. Hitting. And then more hitting.
How Brady would spend a whole 20-minute practice period
showing the linebackers how to use their forearm to shed a
Brady loved the seven-man sled - each linebacker had to
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4 FootballSaturday - September 24, 2011