Since Arizona State started practice two weeks ago, several significant stories have emerged. The depth at receiver. An improved offensive line. An injury to a defensive starter.

None, however, topped Sunday’s news.

During a team meeting, ASU coach Herm Edwards called walk-on Jordan Hoyt – a defensive lineman casual fans probably never have heard of – to the front of the room.

Hoyt got up from his front row seat and discussed the team’s Bible study that takes place every week. As he talked, the 6-foot-3, 281-pound senior swung his arms, comfortable and relaxed, telling teammates that this was a solid way to build camaraderie within the locker room.

Thirty seconds in, as Hoyt recited Colossians 3:23, an announcement appeared on the white screen behind him. It read:



You have just been awarded a full scholarship to ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

Around the country each August, just as the monotony of preseason practice sets in, these stories flash across computer screens and social-media accounts – and they go viral, producing some of the best feel-good moments in college football.

Think about this: Fans don’t cry when their favorite team beats the instate rival, but watching programs surprise a walk-on might produce a tear or two.

“It’s the Rudy effect,’’ ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said, referencing the 1993 movie about Notre Dame walk-on Daniel Ruettiger. “There’s a reason why that movie is still popular, and it’s because it strikes a chord that everybody can relate to.”

(Editor’s note: This reporter has seen “Rudy” probably 50 times – and he’s teared up every time.)

“I can’t relate to the Number 1 recruit in the country — that guy has other-worldly talent,’’ continued Wojciechowski, who was in the room for Hoyt’s announcement, which will air on ESPN this season. “A walk-on is the exact opposite. The walk-on is the guy with the third act in his life. Nobody expects him to do what he does. We can relate to that kid in that moment.”

ASU football posted Hoyt’s scholarship video at 6:12 p.m. Sunday. Since then, it’s been viewed 70,000 times on Twitter and 40,000 more on Facebook. Nearly every news company in the Valley shared it. So did USA Today, NBC Sports and several college football sites.

“I’ve gotten 500-plus messages,’’ Hoyt said Thursday. “And even more, I have (direct messages) and private messages that I haven’t even gotten to. People from like North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Michigan … It’s been crazy.”

At one point Sunday, Tim Hoyt – Jordan’s father – received a message, turned to his wife and said: “I don’t even know who this is.”

This is a relatively recent thing. Tim Cassidy – ASU’s senior associate athletic director for football – said that when Nebraska put son Austin on scholarship in 2009, all he got was a phone call from a coach.

Adam Archuleta didn’t even get that.

When then-ASU coach Bruce Snyder put the talented linebacker on scholarship in 1997, he took a much lower-key approach.

“(He) just called me up to his office during the summer, shook my hand and told me he was going to put me on scholarship,” Archuleta said in a text message. “Which, of course, made me happy.”

Today, schools get creative.

Last year, Bowling Green State coach Mike Jinks told kicker Jake Suder that he could have a scholarship if he could kick a 53-yard field goal. Pressure? Not a chance. Suder nailed that sucker. The team celebrated as if it had won the Sugar Bowl.

Four days later, an Oregon coach called over linebacker Kaulana Apelu during practice at Autzen Stadium. Apelu lined up for a drill. “Hold up,” the coach said.

Then Apelu’s mom appeared on the stadium video board, informing her son that the Ducks were putting him on scholarship.

(Hold on – it’s getting a little misty in here.) 

Forget play calling.

This has turned into college football’s best work.

“Yeah, dudes are jumping out of helicopters and bringing the (scholarship) papers down,’’ ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens said, laughing.

As for Hoyt’s surprise, ASU is keeping the mastermind behind it secret. Edwards called it a team effort, but not everyone was in on it.

“I didn’t know how they were going to do it,’’ Likens said. “I was literally like right there caught up in everything Jordan was saying, thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, Bible study. I think I’ll go. When is it?’ Next thing I know, it just all of a sudden popped up. My old eyes, I can’t read (the screen), but everybody’s clapping and standing up and that’s when I figured it out. It was such a special moment. That’s’ why I love football, man.”

Two days later, Vicki Hoyt stood inside the Verde Dickey Dome, watching her son take his position on the defensive line, his second practice as a scholarship player.

“Let’s go, Hoyt!” she yelled.

When Jordan had called that Sunday, she and her family had just finished lunch. She thought maybe he was calling to tell her he had sold his couch, something he recently had decided to do.

Instead, Jordan Hoyt broke the preseason’s biggest news.

“The whole table exploded,” she said. “We’re all just yelling at the top of our lungs. It was just a dream come true.”


Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected]. Follow him at