As many teams have done recently, the Saint Ignatius football program gathered last week to connect via Zoom.
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Nick Restifo, Hon. '19 convened 60 players on the offense to talk some X's and O's, but more importantly, to connect with two Wildcats alumni in the NFL.
New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer '04 and Chicago Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone '98 talked with the Wildcats about how to conquer the quarantine, and reminisced on their Saint Ignatius careers.
As both emphasized, the most important thing today is to stay healthy and safe. That's way more important than football or any sport. So, Hoyer and Ragone have worked from home, like everyone else.
Hoyer is in a unique position, not only needing to stay in football shape, but in NFL shape, an entirely different level of fitness. First and foremost is eating healthy and doing the best with what you have at your disposal.
"I just worked out in my driveway with bands and cords," Hoyer said. "I'm trying to get in the best shape I can. We can't go back until every team goes back, so I can't control that. But I can be ready for when that time comes, I can control that. Right now, I'm going over pass protections from an offensive line perspective. I'm going over everything like I'm a rookie so I can become better. "
Ragone emphasized becoming better and improving as much as you can during this down time.
"You have to have a capacity for boredom," Ragone said. "You need to push yourself and test yourself further. Instead of just studying your part, understand the details of what we're asking in each play. What are the other guys supposed to do? Know all of the responsibilities and push yourself mentally."
After talking about what they're doing to stay active during this quarantine, Hoyer and Ragone talked about their memories wearing the blue and gold.
The pregame speeches with head coach Chuck Kyle '69 stick out the most for Ragone.
"Coach Kyle's speeches are still some of the most inspiring I've heard," Ragone said. "His speeches inspired you all to go in one direction to play. I'm fortunate that the relationships my coaches at Saint Ignatius have always remained, no matter where I've gone."
Hoyer echoed that sentiment.
"During my junior year before the St. Ed's game, Coach Kyle said, 'You're playing for the kids up in the stands.' That was one of the best speeches given in my football career," Hoyer said. "I've never heard more inspiring speeches from a head coach."
Beyond the speeches, the relationships last the longest.
As he said during the Zoom call with the Baseball Cats, Hoyer remembers the relationships, not necessarily the games.
"I don't have a lot of memories of players and games. I can remember some of the highlights, but it's the relationships and the teammates that I really remember," said Hoyer. "I remember the bus rides. I remember the relationships. I remember singing the Alma Mater when we got back to campus. Those memories last longer than anywhere else. The camaraderie was special. We had guys from the East side, West side, South side. You meet a lot more friends going to Saint Ignatius than if you went somewhere else."
Ragone and Hoyer have developed a close relationship, as well, despite the fact that they did not go to school together Saint Ignatius. In fact, the first Saint Ignatius game Hoyer watched was when Ragone was playing quarterback.
But the two developed a tight-knit bond when they worked together with the Chicago Bears in 2016.
Something that both men realized later is that Saint Ignatius prepares you for life.
"Playing football and being an Ignatius man prepares you for life, and teaches you how to be a good man," Hoyer said. "That's always stayed with me. You don’t want to let friends, family, and Saint Ignatius down, so you represent the school as well as you can. My teammates and classmates are doing a heck of job doing it, and I take a lot of pride in it. The relationships transcend. A lot of people will ask: 'Where you from?' I'll say Cleveland. And then they'll ask, 'What high school did you go to?' I'll say Saint Ignatius, and a lot of people know about Saint Ignatius. I'm proud to carry that along."
Looking forward, the future is uncertain. The 2020 football season is in question, at all levels.
But as Coach Kyle told his men, all you can do is work hard and prepare.
"This is a crazy hurdle that has never been faced before," Kyle said. "A coach can blow a whistle and design drills, but at the end of the day, it's what you do on your own that's important. The one great attribute of Saint Ignatius football players is that they have goals and can motivate themselves. They have an internal drive to work and to say, 'I'm not going to let my teammates down.' Do whatever you can. Even if you only have a pair of dumbbells. Work as hard as you can to get better."