When Jordan Hoyt first walked into Todd Graham’s office, he had nothing left in his football career to cling onto.
He had left a scholarship and opportunity to play at UC Davis – where he’d played 10 games as a true freshman – but had no guarantees he would ever play another down. All he wanted, he said, was a chance.
“I was grateful that coach Graham even gave me time,” Hoyt said. “I told him all I needed was an opportunity. I wasn’t asking for anything, wasn’t asking for money. All I just wanted was an opportunity. I left my scholarship, and I want to play for you.
“When I left UC Davis, I didn’t know I had a chance (to play at ASU). I kind of left just praying that they would give me an opportunity. I felt like that was what I was supposed to do. Where I was when I was at Davis, it just wasn’t what I was wanting, so I followed my dreams and risked everything to come here.”
Graham gave Hoyt, a local product out of Chandler High School, a chance to walk-on with the program. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive lineman had always wanted to be a Sun Devil, but never knew he even had the ability to make it happen until his stellar high school senior season.
Hoyt totaled 62 tackles for a program that made it to the state semifinals, earning First Team All-State honors and suddenly putting him on colleges’ radars. It was too late to earn a scholarship look at ASU, so he committed and signed with UC Davis.
“I loved my opportunity at UC Davis, but going to Chandler really opened my eyes to wanting to play at ASU,” Hoyt said. “I wanted to play in front of all my friends, all my family. This is where I’ve always wanted to play since I was a little kid. I felt like I wanted to pursue that dream.”
More than anything, Hoyt wasn’t ready to give up football. His time away from the sport only fueled his passion for the sport, and reaffirmed his goals.
“I think football is a calling in my life,” Hoyt said. “It’s a huge passion. I love it. I even love practicing, too. Anything to do with football, I’m all excited about it. It’s like if you go underwater for a long time and you can’t breathe and you’re dying to get your breath, you come up and it’s like you finally get to do what you love. That’s football to me.”
Even though he got his wish and a chance to play at his dream school, there were challenges. First, there was finding a way to pay for his education after giving up his scholarship to be a walk-on. Then, there was the matter of adjusting to the talent level. Hoyt said facing Division I talent, be it at the offensive line, running back or quarterback position, was jarring.
But after a few weeks of adjustment, he went back to the values that had been instilled in him before he even put on a football helmet.
“I knew I had to work from the ground up, and I needed to work for everything I’m given,” Hoyt said. “That’s how my parents taught me. I made sure I was doing the right things, on and off the field when nobody’s looking. I try to abide by the things I was taught when I was younger.”
That said, even as the talent level went up, so did his level of competition.
“Everything is top level,” Hoyt said. “Everybody’s working harder. Everyone wants it. There’s a lot more competition, a lot of bigger, stronger guys, guys that are faster. You have to really work on your craft in order to really stand out on the field and show up on film in a positive way for the coaches.”
Hoyt said he was heavily aided by the influence of his high school coach, Chandler’s Shaun Aguano. Aguano has developed a reputation as one of the best coaches in the state, winning two of the last three state titles and producing Sun Devils such as Hoyt, N’Keal Harry, Chase Lucas, Bryce Perkins and fellow walk-on Tyler McClure.
Hoyt said Aguano runs his program like a Division I program, creating a level of expectation that was easy to adapt to once Hoyt arrived in Tempe.
“Coach Aguano runs it very similar to ASU in terms of periods, the type of drills we do and all that,” Hoyt said. “We do things very similar to Chandler. Coach Aguano runs an outstanding program, and I couldn’t be happier with my high school experience. That whole entire program is the best I’ve seen. Chandler has something really special over there.”
Hoyt’s hard work has paid off, particularly this spring. He’s worked well with new defensive line coach Michael Slater, even cracking the two-deep in recent practices. His presence inside has been critical during this part of the season, especially with his ability to execute well enough despite his lack of burst.
“I’m going to let the coaches decide who’s going to play and all that, but as long as you’re doing the right things and you’re working your hardest, then you’re being productive and it’s going to turn out well,” Hoyt said. “(Coach Slater said), ‘I’m going to give you this opportunity. I need you to maximize on it.’”
If he stays in the two-deep coming into the fall, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hoyt get put on scholarship. Hoyt’s expectations won’t stop there, though.
“I didn’t come here to just be a walk-on,” Hoyt said. “I came here to gain a scholarship, and I want to be a great football player. I didn’t come here just to earn a scholarship. I came here to be the best defensive tackle in the nation. That’s my goal. That’s my mindset. I got a lot of work ahead of me, but everything I do I want to give it my all.”