It was just another day at the Silver Diner with the boys. But seventeen-year-old Andrew Hoffman's meal was interrupted by a phone call from his mom that would affect the next five years of his life. The University of Virginia had just offered him a football scholarship. And it was only June.
"I was pretty surprised," Hoffman said. "I had talked to my coach a little bit and he said I could expect to get some calls early in the season. Never in a billion years did I think that I would get an early offer."
Harvard, Dartmouth, West Point and the University of Maryland recruited him, but Hoffman, a rising senior at Park View High School in Sterling, Va., decided to verbally commit this week to the Cavalier's football program.
Hoffman's stature--he stands tall and strong at 6-foot-4, 240-pounds--has led the defensive tackle's classmates to nickname him "Paul Bunyon." His coach, Mickey Thompson, a 1981 alumnus of the Cavs' football program, said he sees what Virginia likes about Hoffman.
"He's a good looking kid with a great work ethic," Thompson said. "Recruiting picked up when people saw him in person because he's a big kid, but he runs really well. He has a lot of potential to get even bigger and stronger in a college program like Virginia."
Hoffman, an excellent student who is interested in engineering, is "gung-ho and ready to go play football for Virginia" according to his mother, Brenda Richardson. But Hoffman still has a year to wait before he can actually become a Cavalier. While he waits, Hoffman will continue to spend the majority of his time playing the game he loves-football. He will pass the summer months lifting weights and training at speed camps.
Richardson attributes her son's "lack of football burnout" to the fact that she made him wait to play organized football until high school. She said she wanted him to benefit from the expertise she hoped a high school coach would provide.
Hoffman found this guidance in Thompson, a nine year Park View high school veteran.
"Coach Thompson has nurtured and encouraged Andrew," Richardson said. "He gives 110 percent to his players." Hoffman has always been interested in Virginia's program, but he never wanted to get his hopes up about joining the highly touted Cavaliers.
When Virginia made its scholarship offer, Hoffman decided to commit verbally at this early date, even before the start of the senior year. Officially, Hoffman cannot sign with the Cavaliers until February, 2000.
Hoffman's road to Virginia was marred by a stress fracture to his foot that caused him to miss the beginning of the football season. But true to his coach's belief in Hoffman's "excellent work ethic," and his mother's contention that Hoffman is "very ambitious," the defensive lineman was soon back on the field. During the 1998 season he had 17 first hit tackles and two sacks.
For now, Hoffman can stop worrying about where he's going to college, and start focusing on what he's going to do once he gets there. He is interested in Virginia's engineering program, but his family is concerned with the combination of a rigorous academic and athletic schedule.
His mother said that she "just wants him to enjoy college, so if it takes him six years to get an engineering degree, that's O.K."
Richardson's steadfast support of her son is, according to Hoffman, typical of his family network.
Hoffman said "I want to thank my coaches and my parents because they were the ones who really supported me throughout to get me to where I am today"