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I was talking with Brian Sipe, the legendary San Diego State quarterback who was the NFL MVP in 1980 with the Cleveland Browns, about his decision to join new San Diego State football coach Brady Hoke’s staff as quarterbacks coach when he told me a story that says a lot about Hoke.
Hoke is new in town, but he met Sipe long ago when he was an assistant coach at Michigan. At the time Hoke had successfully recruited from San Diego high schools such future NFL players as Vista High’s Leon Hall and Torrey Pines High’s Hayden Epstein to play in Ann Arbor.
As Sipe recalled how Hoke stopped by Santa Fe Christian, a small school in Solana Beach that doesn’t turn out Big Ten-caliber recruits, my mind raced quickly through past SFC rosters trying to recall who had Hoke’s interest.
When I asked Sipe — one of the most unassuming persons you’ll ever meet — he paused, chuckled and and said, “I don’t think we had anybody. I think he just wanted to meet me.”
That’s Brady Hoke: always looking ahead. When Hoke and his wife went to dinner with Sipe and his wife as part of his effort to persuade Sipe to leave a job he loved to help turn around the Aztecs, there was already a history between the men.
It’s already clear that one of
Hoke’s favorite refrains when referring to problems in the past is, “I can’t drive forward looking in the rear-view mirror. We’re driving straight ahead.”
He used that line when I asked him about the reputation of past SDSU football staffs to give up on a San Diego-area recruit when the competition was a school from a major conference. It may be true, but it doesn’t matter to him, because that’s not how he will handle recruiting.
SDSU’s roll call of former assistants that have become head coaches in the NFL includes John Madden (Oakland Raiders), John Fox (Carolina Panthers), Brian Billick (Baltimore Ravens) and Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints). But all of those coaches established their reputations after they left SDSU.
With Hoke hiring Sipe as his quarterbacks coach, Al Borgess as his offensive coordinator and Rocky Long his defensive coordinator, no SDSU staff arrived on campus with a longer resume.
Hoke had previous relationships with all three men. He was an assistant at Oregon State when Long was the defensive coordinator. He got to know Borgess when they were young assistants (Hoke at Oregon State and Borgess at nearby Portland State) and coached against him many times in the Pac-10 and Big 10.
And a few years ago he stopped by tiny Santa Fe Christian’s campus for a visit with Sipe that paid off big in 2009.