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NCAA Football Oregon Ducks

Oregon Football Commit Follows His Heart, Walks Away From the Game

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, it takes guts to follow your heart. It can’t have been an easy decision for high school football player Jordan Hoiem to give up his scholarship to join the Oregon football team and walk away from the sport, but that’s exactly what the Ducks’ three-star commit did earlier this week.

Hoiem’s retirement, before his senior year at Baldwin High School in Wailuki, Hi., is a rare but wise move for the outside linebacker/defensive end. He knew his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

Hoiem told The Maui News: “I played because I was getting recruited and that was my ticket to go get an education, so I forced myself to do it but I was really unhappy and it made me really unhappy in life, too.”

He recalled enjoying the spotlight that came with his initial success on the football field, but when he started gaining even more attention as a junior, it became more than he could handle — or perhaps just more than he wanted to.

Explaining his decision to The Maui News, Hoiem said he’s not really a football person. Instead, he plans to try out to rejoin the Baldwin baseball team this spring. Hoiem called himself a “baseball fanatic,” admitting that he put the sport he loves most on hold for the one he thought might bring him the greatest gains.

One has to wonder how many other young college football players feel the same way but stick with the sport anyway in the hope of getting a scholarship, getting paid to play in the NFL, or simply fulfilling other people’s expectations.

How many highly-touted high school football prospects just don’t pan out in college — and how many of them fall by the wayside because their hearts weren’t in it in the first place? For that matter, how many of them don’t even realize football isn’t what they want to do because it’s all they’ve ever done?

The college recruiting process is overwhelming and stressful, but for young athletes in many sports, it starts much, much earlier. By the time a player is a junior in high school and recruiting is in full swing, he may have already been playing football for more than ten years. He may not even remember a time when he didn’t play football, and just when he’s reaching his prime, he might feel burned out, especially if he’s focused on football at the expense of other activities.

In today’s ultra-competitive culture of youth sports, it’s probably more common than many people think, but it’s much less common for young athletes to risk disappointing their parents and coaches and jeopardizing their futures by simply walking away when they’ve had enough. Hoiem hasn’t ruled out an eventual return to football, but for the foreseeable future, he’s done.

Hoiem probably would have been an asset to the Oregon football program. In addition to his athletic ability, he was self-aware and smart enough to realize that while he was really good at football, he wasn’t happy, and he was strong enough to trust his judgment and hang up his uniform (and do it early enough that someone else could use his scholarship). After all, life is just too short to spend it playing a game that only makes him miserable.