COLUMBIA — Standing in the middle of a long, winding line outside Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Dan Hoch’s head stuck out clearly above the crowd. The rain poured down on his shaggy black hair, drenching the black “100 Years of Homecoming” shirt and athletic shorts that covered his 6-foot-7, 320-pound frame.
Without a jersey, nobody recognized him. Nobody gave him a second look.
Dan Hoch, who started at offensive tackle for Missouri from 2008 to 2011, was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. Now, he’s back in Columbia to see his old team — and his younger brother — play in a familiar environment.
“It’s a new experience. When I was getting recruited, I never got to be a part of this because I was such a late sign,” Dan Hoch said, motioning to the stadium at his back. “So this is actually my first time as a fan.”
Dan Hoch’s younger brother, Matt Hoch, is Missouri’s starting defensive tackle, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound sophomore who shares his brother’s black hair and quiet determination.
At practice earlier in fall camp, Matt Hoch cited his brother’s influence as a deciding factor in his decision to come to Missouri.
“He had such a good experience here, and he talked to me about it,” Matt Hoch said. “Obviously, Dan played a huge part in me being here.”
Around 3:45 on Saturday afternoon, Dan Hoch stood among a crowd along the bridge that runs over Providence Avenue towards Memorial Stadium, cheering and waving as his brother took part in the “Tiger Walk.”
At that moment, seeing Matt walking alongside his former teammates, it all came full circle, Dan Hoch said. Four years earlier, his brother had stood in that crowd, cheering as he strolled by. Now all Dan Hoch could do was wave.
“I was over there, waving to him, saying hello. It’s been quite the transition, going from when I was walking down seeing him, then we were walking down together,” he said, grinning sheepishly. “And now it’s reversed.”
Dan Hoch is attending the game with his father, Kyle Hoch. Normally, his mother, Lori Hoch, would also attend, but a group of recent additions to the family prevented that from happening.
“Usually my whole family comes, but my parents have three dogs, and one of them had 11 puppies two days ago,” Dan Hoch said, stopping to laugh and roll his eyes. “So my mom had to stay back.”
Standing patiently in the line outside the stadium at 4:30 p.m., Dan Hoch couldn’t predict how the game was going to make him feel. When you put all of your time and energy into one team for so long it’s hard to detach yourself from that lifestyle, he said.
The thought alone makes him uneasy.
“I’m kind of scared about it, a little bit, just seeing what kind of emotions it brings. You invest four years of your life into this, and now you’re just kind of watching it,” he said, shaking his head. “You hope for the best, and you definitely want to see them do well, but it’s definitely different.”
For now, Dan Hoch said his football career is over. After going undrafted and then being cut by both New Orleans and Jacksonville, he is anxious to take on new challenges.
For Dan Hoch, that challenge is teaching.
On Tuesday he’ll begin his new job as a teacher of world history at Harlan Community High School in Iowa, where he was named Iowa High School Player of the Year in 2007.
Along with teaching, Dan Hoch is looking forward to coaching football, as well as track and field. While his old job and new job are nothing alike, he thinks teaching will satisfy him in different ways.
“It’s totally different. Obviously, I wanted to play football. It’s given me so many opportunities,” he said. “It will be the same with teaching. I get to go back and affect kids every day. You don’t do it for the money, you do it for the experience."
“Granted, if I made it in the NFL, I would have done that for a while. But you never know when your last play is going to be, so you have to move on and have a plan."
Standing in a steady rain in a T-shirt and sandals, outside the stadium where he devoted four years of his life, it’s clear that Dan Hoch is no longer a Missouri Tiger.
He’s beginning to move on.
“I think I have a pretty good plan.”