OL commit Hoge buys into Notre Dame way

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Tristen Hoge didn’t plan on being a walking Notre Dame billboard.

But as the months have passed since his verbal commitment to the Irish football program in December, it’s been hard for the offensive line prospect to avoid.

First it was the usual Notre Dame gear from visits to campus. Then came the graphic on the tailgate of his truck that says “Built Irish Tough.” Notre Dame’s switch to Under Armour made things worse.

“I'm a huge Under Armour guy,” Hoge said. “I live by Under Armour. That transition, I loved it. We bought so much Under Armour stuff. My whole closet is filled with Under Armour stuff right now."

Each purchase marked another sign of the strength of his commitment. When his parents chose to invest, they one-upped him. They made the biggest purchase in May when they bought a home in South Bend.

“We're just getting ahead of the game,” said Marty Hoge, Tristen’s father and an assistant coach for his high school team. “To tell you the truth, we're the smartest guys on the planet as far as I'm concerned, because any parent that's committed now wishes they would have done what we've done. It's getting close. We're into our season now. If we had to come back and look for a place, we would lose time in being able to be involved in what we want to as parents.”

The Hoges chose to invest in a home for the dozens of trips from Pocatello, Idaho to South Bend they plan to make when their son enrolls and joins the football program. The combination of convenience and financial opportunity made sense to Marty Hoge. It’s a decision that a number of parents have made in the past.

“We researched the property back there,” he said. “(Head) coach (Brian) Kelly and (offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand did a great job pointing out some places that are around the university that may have some resale value. They pointed us in the right direction and we found a place that was ideal. It's a 10-minute walk to the stadium. It's an unbelievable environment.”

Tristen Hoge’s recruitment can’t officially end until he enrolls at Notre Dame in January, but the Hoges were convinced their son wouldn’t back out of his commitment. They started making plans to find a home in South Bend just months after Tristen Hoge made his verbal commitment.

“When my wife and I decided to buy that place back there, I told her, 'Heaven forbid he changes his mind,’” Marty Hoge said. “She looked at me with a disgusted look like she wanted to bop me in my mouth. We like to joke about it now."

Mature for his age, Tristen Hoge took the recruiting process serious from the start. He didn’t want to be wishy-washy in any decision that he made.

“I told my parents before I even began the recruiting process, 'When I get recruited, I will make my decision and that will be my decision. Nothing will falter from it, and I will keep my decision for the rest of my life,’” Tristen Hoge said.

An early jump on recruiting allowed the Hoges to make a number of visits to schools across the country. Trips to Penn State, Florida, LSU and Stanford were among the visits he made before committing to Notre Dame.

Tristen Hoge bought into Kelly’s leadership, Hiestand’s ability to make him a better offensive lineman and the entire university. He convinced his dad, who was willing to keep making visits to schools, that he was ready to end the process.

"Tristen, as a whole, just dove into the University of Notre Dame,” Marty Hoge said. “That's just what it is. I was really digging this recruiting process as a parent. Since he committed, it didn't shut the floodgates. I swear he got 18 or 20 offers within 8 or 10 days of him committing because these athletes have made it so simple for colleges to flip these kids."

The 6-foot-5, 296-pound offensive lineman hasn’t swayed from his stance on Notre Dame. He remained unaffected by Friday’s announcement of an academic fraud investigation including four Irish football players. He doesn’t plan to visit other schools and kindly declines any interest from other coaches.

“It's honorable to honor your commitment to the fullest of the word,” Tristen Hoge said. “I always looked at it when you go looking at other schools like cheating on your girlfriend or your wife. You can never look down on someone because everyone has personal choices, but I always thought of it that way."

Tristen Hoge has become a key member of the 2015 Irish recruiting class that’s grown to 17 commitments. His value goes beyond his four-star rankings and status as the top center prospect in the country. The Notre Dame staff can point to him as the model for what’s expected from a commitment.

The Hoges are eager to help Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts as well. Tristen is quick to welcome the newest member of the recruiting class with a message on Twitter. His father isn’t afraid to talk with parents of other recruiting targets. He mentions conversations he’s had with the fathers of wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and linebacker Te’von Coney.

“I'm not embarrassed to call a dad and express my feelings,” Marty Hoge said. “I'm not a hard sell by any means, but I just let them know, 'This was my feeling.' Everyone I've ever talked to that's been to Notre Dame has had that same exact feeling. But when you see some of the kids that are coming through, I know which ones are going to commit and I know which ones aren't."

Trying to find recruits and families that are willing to be invested as much as the Hoges won’t be easy. They’re already property committed.

“We bought into South Bend, Indiana for a reason,” Marty Hoge said. “We always promised ourselves that we'd invest wherever we go.”

They’ve matched the emotional investment that their son has made in Notre Dame and South Bend. It’s a place they plan to be tied to for at least four more years.

“It's a home feeling,” Tristen Hoge said. “I really liked that. I warmed up to that immediately. The surroundings, it's such a great area. It's so fertile, so green. I absolutely love it.”

Big surprise from my parents with the wrap. Definitely committed to the Irish for life. GO IRISH.

— Super-T (@HogeTristen) January 30, 2014 // | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame OL commit Tristen Hoge's truck tailgate reads "Build Irish Tough."(Photo courtesy of Hoge)
Notre Dame offensive line recruits Jerry Tillery (left) and Tristen Hoge remain committed to the 2015 Irish recruiting class (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN).