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From the Orioles to the Bengals

Kyle Hoppy played four years as an outfielder in the Baltimore Orioles system before coming back to college.
Buffalo State athletics photo

Kyle Hoppy's first love was baseball. 

As a kid growing up in Orchard Park, N.Y. -- a town famous for being home to the NFL's Buffalo Bills -- Hoppy would spend days in the backyard catching, throwing and hitting a baseball, and nights dreaming of the same.

Even when football came into his life and carved out a soft spot in his sports heart, he couldn't shake the idea of playing baseball at the highest level. 

So after the Baltimore Orioles selected him in the 28th round of the 2009 draft, Hoppy ultimately passed on opportunities to enroll in college and play football, including FCS-level Bucknell, and signed to play baseball professionally.

"It was always a dream come true for me," Hoppy said.

Fast forward to today. Hoppy's baseball dream wasn't exactly a nightmare, but it certainly didn't play out like he hoped. After hitting just .188 over 141 games in parts of four seasons as an outfielder at the Rookie and Class-A levels, Hoppy made the difficult decision to give up the game that had given him so much.

"It took some sacrifices, but I was happy I made that decision" to play baseball, Hoppy said. "... I always had in the back of my mind, if it didn't pan out for me the way I had hoped it would, I was going to try and go back to school and get my education, and hopefully go somewhere where I could play football again."

That's when Buffalo State came into the picture, or back into the picture, in reality. Coach Jerry Boyes was one of many coaches to scout Hoppy back in the late 2000s, but Hoppy was up front at the time about his interest in pursuing baseball. 

After stepping away from the minor leagues, Hoppy reached out to Garrett McLaughlin, a Buffalo State assistant coach and former high school teammate. Through McLaughlin, Hoppy reconnected with Boyes. Not long after that, Hoppy decided to enroll at Buffalo State.

As a high school athlete, Hoppy was invited to Baltimore for a pre-draft workout. His baseball skills were always evident. But he was no slouch in football, either. He started at quarterback as a junior and senior at Orchard Park High School, and helped lead the team to a state championship.

As a 22-year-old freshman last season, Hoppy sat behind all-Empire 8 standout Casey Kacz. Both Hoppy and Kacz knew each other in high school and had attended many of the same football camps, so that familiarity helped Hoppy get back in the football flow.

With Kacz gone, Hoppy and freshman Aaron Ertel battled for the starting job in the spring, as well as training camp. Hoppy took hold of the job as much for his skills as his leadership ability.

"He has that 'it' factor, you might say, when it comes to leading and having guys rally around him," Boyes said. "... There's a lot of people out there that have the skillset; throw, run, whatever. The difference between...

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Columnist

Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is an associate news editor for ESPN.com and a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has contributed freelance work to ESPN Rise and has been a regular contributor to D3football.com since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing. A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Andrew currently resides in New Britain. 

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov 

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