Oliver Hoyte is an old-school linebacker. Not too fast, not too flashy, not too big. But if you’re a running back squirting through the line of scrimmage, Hoyte is going to find you, wrap you up, and bring you down.
If that’s old school, well, Hoyte’s happy to be old school.
"Anyone that knows me knows how important football is to me," he said in a recent interview. "I have so much desire, so much hunger."
While top talents Mario Williams and Manny Lawson were attacking quarterbacks on the defensive line for N.C. State in 2005, Hoyte was there to punish the running backs. The three-year starter had 79 tackles as a senior for the Wolfpack after getting 93 as a junior. An unheralded member of the flashy Wolfpack defense, Hoyte was never recognized as an all-ACC player (first-, second- or third teams) despite his consistent production, mostly because he came off the field in passing situations for a talented defense.
"Go back and look at big plays per play," Hoyte suggested. "The number of plays you have vs. the big plays you make, the ratio - I was probably the best on the team. But I didn’t play every down, that’s why my numbers were probably down a little bit."
At 6-2½ and 245, with great instincts, he’s big enough and smart enough to play in the NFL – but his 5.01 time in the 40 is a major cause for concern. He was the slowest of the 37 linebackers at the combine.
"I know I didn’t run as well as I know I can, but eveything else was pretty good. I excelled in the football drills ... that’s what I am, I’m a football player."
Hoyte still enjoyed the experience of the combine, because it was a chance to impress coaches - if not with his blazing speed, with his passion for the game.
"I had a whole heap of meetings - I think I talked to every team," he said. "And any time I sit down to talk about football with a coach, Xs and Os, they walk away impressed. Because I’m a student of the game. I just wanted to show people I had nothing to hide, I was just a good football player. And I ‘m in the best shape of my life right now.
He was brought in for pre-draft meetings with New England and Cincinnati, as well as a trip to visit the Bucs in his hometown of Tampa (he went to high school with Florida State DT Brodrick Bunkley).
NC State's Oliver Hoyte tackles S Miss RB Larry Thomas (8) (AP Photo)
Hoyte will likely be a late second-day pick that’ll have to make his initial mark on the NFL on special teams – which wouldn’t be so bad.
"I love special teams," Hoyte said. "I played special teams especially much my freshman year, I was on every single one. One night, I think it was East Tennessee State, on the kickoff, I hit a guy so hard he went to the wrong sideline. And I said, OK, college is just like high school."
But the pros aren’t just like college - which is why Hoyte plans to work his way toward a dream.
"When I go into camp, I plan on making on making an impact on special teams AND defense," Hoyte said. "That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m going to continue working on my straight-line speed the rest of my career. Some people are born with it, some are not.
"But when I see the football, I’m going for it."
Patriots Insider, Jon Scott contributed to this report.