TORONTO — Michael Hoecht couldn't have picked a better time to crack the CFL Scouting Bureau's top-20 list.
The Brown University defensive lineman made his first appearance Monday on the list — which compiles the top-20 prospects for the league's annual draft — at No. 6. A heady accomplishment given Hoecht, a native of Oakville, Ont., who grew up in Ohio — had been bypassed in the previous two editions.
At six foot four and weighing 310 pounds, Hoecht is hard to miss. But the COVID-19 pandemic did Hoecht no favours, forcing the cancellation of both the CFL national combine as well as Brown's pro day.
"Personally, I was probably surprised it took this long just because I knew I was going to test well," Hoecht said during a CFL conference call Tuesday. "But obviously it's difficult with the CFL combine and my pro day getting cancelled and everybody is in that scramble to get their name in front of scouts.
"I knew it was going to happen eventually and so I was just making sure I was prepared, making sure I was ready and then here we are. It's been a fun process to sort of gather this attention, I've enjoyed a lot of it."
Hoecht registered 42 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and four sacks last season at Brown. A former team captain, he appeared in 37 career games with the Bears, recording 174 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
And Hoecht wasted little time contributing to the program, playing in seven games as a freshman. But Hoecht is much more than a football player, having served as a calculus tutor while at Brown and listing finance and the economy among his interests.
"He's big, he's athletic, disruptive," said a CFL GM. "He does a lot of things well."
Hoecht said he's emphatically stressed to CFL officials being well-rounded hasn't dampened his love of football or desire to make it a top priority as a pro.
"I think a lot of teams wanted to make sure where my head was with it," Hoecht said. "So they'd ask and I'd reassure them my mind right now is focused on football.
"It's what I want to do, I don't have necessarily any long-term plans to play and then get out immediately. I want to be in, I want to play, I want to have a great career . . . I want to live out that dream, be a professional football player and have a lot of fun doing it."
But with prospects being unable to audition for pro personnel, they've had to resort to staging virtual interviews and workouts. However, Hoecht downplayed the hardship of that process.
"The learning curve wasn't that bad," Hoecht said. "A lot of us are taking classes online and via Zoom.
"All the guys I've interviewed (with) are good people. It's like having a good conversation with them and trying to show your true self and if they like you and draft you what they're going to get."
In his workout video, Hoecht posted times of 4.65 and 4.68 seconds in the 40-yard dash, very impressive for a player his size. He also had 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press, a 33.5-inch vertical jump, broad jump nine feet two inches, 4.21-second shuttle and 7.05-second three-cone drill.
A pro career in Canada would require Hoecht to adjust to a new game played on a longer, wider field, with three downs and defensive linemen lining up a yard off the ball. But he isn't the least bit concerned about successfully being able to adjust.
"During my time at Brown we had a lot of coaching turnover," he said. "I played in three different defences and every D-line coach I had teaches the scheme a little differently.
"For me that's not something I'm overly stressed about just because I've been able to learn different schemes and different defences. So making the transition and changing up the timing, I feel like I'll be pretty adaptable and pretty coachable."
Hoecht is also eligible for this week's NFL draft and says he's keeping an open mind regarding his football future.
"For me, it's taking things one day at a time, especially with so much uncertainty going on," Hoecht said. "For this weekend I'm going to look into what options are available to me and then that will help guide my decision going into the CFL draft.
"Especially right now, you just want to keep all your options open. Whatever makes the most sense for me when this is all done shaking out and I can see all my available options I'll choose what makes the most sense for me then."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press