The popular phrase ‘living the dream’ is definitely not overstating things when it comes to Canadian defensive lineman Michael Hoecht. The Oakville, Ontario, native is doing exactly that now that he’s playing for the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL.
“Yeah, for sure. You wake up every day and it just feels special,” said Hoecht. “You go out the door and you know that you’re prepping for the weekend. It’s been everything I’ve dreamt of.”
Due to his family moving across the border on a couple of occasions when he was a kid, Hoecht spent a large chunk of his younger years in Ohio. From there he got into Brown University where he honed his footballing skillset. After he graduated from college, he entered the 2020 NFL Draft but wasn’t picked up, however, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rams.
Hoecht spent the 2020 season on the Rams’ practice roster even though he was also the tenth overall pick by the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL Draft the same year.
The time spent on the Rams’ practice squad obviously paid dividends as he was promoted to their active roster this year and is now a regular starter on the defensive line alongside impactful players such as Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Troy Reeder.
So, how hard was it to choose between playing in the CFL in 2020 or being on an NFL practice roster?
“I thought that if my end goal was to stay in the NFL, then being on the Rams’ practice squad gave me the best opportunity,” he said. “It allowed me to stay within the system, continue to learn from great coaches Eric Henderson and Brandon Staley at the time and be around guys like Aaron Donald.”
“I felt it was just part of my process in my own growth of the game. And you never know. At any point in this business, guys go down and you need guys to be able to suit up when you get your number called. So, I figured it was more just a year for me to train, a year for me to develop and if they did need me in a game last year, I’d have been ready.”
“As much appreciation as I have for the Redblacks, I knew that given a roster spot there or practice squad spot here, I would’ve stayed.”
There can be little doubt that the NFL is the king of sports. That’s certainly the case in the US, if not almost anywhere in the sporting world, so playing for an NFL team is definitely cracking the big time. Of course, not every football player is good enough to make it, and of those that do, not all of them last for one reason or another.
As far as Hoecht’s concerned, it’s about having the right mindset going in.
“Honestly, it’s about preparation for games and enjoying the games when you’re out there,” he continued.
“There are definitely times when I take a step back. Like when the crowd’s roaring in the big third-down moment of the game. You’ve just got to kind of step back and appreciate everything that goes into this. When all that’s going on, it’s pretty special and it’s pretty fun.”
He goes on to say that he wanted to join the Rams because he felt he could learn a lot from being around the coaching staff, led by head coach Sean McVay.
“He coaches exactly as he is and that’s a really good person,” added Hoecht. “He cares about his players; he cares about his coaches, and he always wants what’s best for us. It’s a unique opportunity where we get a lot of input into the system and so it’s very collaborative and it’s something that I think allows a lot of people to really succeed in this environment.”
As to whether being a Canadian who’s making a name for himself in the NFL makes any difference, Hoecht is pretty levelheaded about that.
“I think everybody’s got their own path here, nobody makes it here the easy way,” he said. “Everybody here has fought through their own struggles and their own adversities.”
“I have a unique story because I come from north of the 49th parallel. I don’t know if that makes me uniquely special, it just makes me have my own unique story. But you could say that about just about everybody.”
And that story is being added to every week whenever number 96 runs onto the field for the Rams.