The offensive coordinator was doing talk radio before he got the job.
The wideout who led the nation in receiving two weeks ago will never play football again. In fact, he's lucky to be walking.
|Brady Hoke returned to his alma mater after a stint at Michigan. (US Presswire)|
The star defensive end is a 32-year-old former Marine.
It is the only university in the Mid-American Conference named after an actual human being.
There's your Ball State trivia for the week. Well, that and the football team is ranked for the first time (No. 25 in AP) with a story begging to be told. Still, when the Cardinals entered the poll Sunday, the first thought that popped into most people's minds -- and the national wire story -- was alum David Letterman.
"I had him in class," said 70-year-old Ball State loyalist Morry Mannies. "He wasn't much of a student. I didn't know if he would ever amount to anything."
Mannies is in his 53rd year as voice of the Cardinals. Forty years ago, though, he was also teaching Beginning Public Speaking at Ball State to a typical slacker college student who would go on to greater things.
"He didn't prepare," Mannies said of Letterman. "He didn't show up part of the time. He wasn't organized. His masterful thing was talking his way out of things."
That's the Dave we know and love. Turns out the ol' alma mater's football program isn't one big stupid human trick. In other words, the university has something to be proud of these days other than the David Letterman Communication and Media Building.
The Cardinals share Division I-A's best record (6-0) with Alabama, Penn State and Utah this week. It has been a long, slow climb for coach Brady Hoke, who finally broke through with a bowl game in 2007, his fifth season at the school. The next goal is getting to the top of the MAC. The Cardinals haven't won the conference title since the pre-expansion days of 1996.
Hoke spent eight years as an assistant at Michigan, going to bowl games, winning a national championship and becoming Lloyd Carr's associate head coach. Then he came back home to his -- and Dave's -- alma mater.
"We haven't done anything yet," the coach said in typical Hoke-speak.
NFL scouts are legitimizing the program by crawling all over it. They especially like quarterback Nate Davis, running back MiQuale Lewis, tight end Darius Hill and 310-pound offensive tackle Robert Brewster. They would be looking at receiver Dante Love. The talented senior was leading the country in receiving 2½ weeks ago when he was injured at Indiana and required spine surgery. His career is over but, thankfully, Love is expected to make a full recovery.
"Love's injury has given the season special meaning," Mannies said.
There is a lot of special meaning at Ball State this season. Defensive end Brandon Crawford, 32, from nearby Fort Wayne worked in an automotive factory after high school before joining the Marines in 1999. He eventually enrolled at Ball State in 2006. The junior leads the Cardinals in tackles for loss (five).
The Cardinals' offensive coordinator is one of a handful of coaches in the country with both Super Bowl (Tampa Bay, 2002) and national championship (Michigan, 1997) rings. Until joining Carr's staff in 1996, he was best known for being the last head coach at Kansas State before Bill Snyder turned around the program.
Stan Parrish was doing sports talk radio three years ago in Memphis when Hoke called his old Michigan homie with a job offer.
"I was kind of out on a scrap heap," the 62-year-old Parrish said. "I had to start over at a place a lot of people had never heard of. It made me feel good as a coach. These kids have rejuvenated me. There aren't a whole lot more falls."
While at Michigan (1996-2001), Parrish coached future pros Brian Griese and Tom Brady. From there he spent two seasons with the Buccaneers working with veteran Brad Johnson.
"Nate is the best pure thrower I've coached," Parrish said of his current quarterback, Davis. "I'm talking about arm strength. Drew Henson had the arm. Tommy had the touch. Brian was in between. I'm not a flower thrower. I'm not that way.
"I'm near the end of the rainbow, OK? He's kind of made me young again."
Davis made an impact on Parrish while still in Bellaire, Ohio, receiving scant interest from other schools. Parrish saw the arm and the smarts. In less than three seasons, the 6-foot-2 Davis has become the school's career leader in touchdown passes (59) and passing yards (7,304 yards).
When injuries at running back hit last season, almost the entire offensive burden was on Davis and his receivers. Davis responded with 30 touchdown passes and six interceptions in leading the Cardinals to their first bowl since 1996. Love caught 100 balls for almost 1,400 yards. The 6-6 Hill fell 74 yards of 1,000 receiving.
Ball State would have arrived earlier on the national scene if it had pulled off a monumental upset at Nebraska last season. Davis threw for a career-high 422 yards in a 41-40 loss.
Davis, a shotgun quarterback in high school, had trouble taking the snap from under center when he arrived at Ball State. Parrish suggested the gloves for traction. He got the idea from Johnson, who wore them when the Bucs practiced with wet footballs because of weather.
Davis hardly ever takes them off.
"Brad Johnson gets all the credit for the gloves indirectly," Parrish said. "He was the one in Tampa Bay who taught me. It got cold one year when we played the NFC Championship Game in Philly. He wore the gloves that day."
Tampa Bay won 27-10 that day in January 2003 to advance to the Super Bowl.
The MAC as a whole is about rejuvenation. It might be the ultimate stepping stone league for coaches. Each of the top three teams in the AP poll is coached by former Kent State assistants -- Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri).
"A lot of conversation you hear around town is that Brady (Hoke) is gone," Mannies said. "The football world is successful about plucking up those mid-majors. People ask, 'What if Brady leaves, Darius graduates and our two big tackles graduate?'
"Hey, we'd do it again. The fans don't seem to understand that MAC is a breeding ground for those successful coaches."
For the rest of the national notes see the Dodds and Ends blog.