(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
This story was originally printed in the BYU-Utah football Gameday program, Sept. 21, 2013
Growing up in a small town prepared Cody Hoffman for the fame and attention that he has received since his breakout, redshirt-freshman season at BYU. The Crescent City, Calif., native likes to avoid all of the attention just like he avoids opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
On the field he is known for being a terror to other teams, and off the field he is known for his hard work, his discipline and being a positive role model to everyone who looks up to him.
The senior, who is 6-foot-4 and 210 lbs, is considered the best BYU receiver since Austin Collie left after setting three major receiving records. As of Aug. 31, Hoffman’s career totals include 203 receptions, 2,718 yards and 28 touchdowns, making him third in career touchdowns, fourth in receptions and fifth in yards.
Recognizing that individual records are great, he knows that it is more important the team has a great season than to break the records.
“Going after those records is not going to stop my style of play,” Hoffman said. “I’m going to play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help the team win. If I break the records then great, if not, then it’s not that big of a deal.”
Because of his success on the field, Hoffman has been nominated for multiple preseason awards, being named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list (awarded to the top wide receiver in the country), the 2013 CFPA Wide Receiver Trophy Watch List and a preseason All-American by Phil Steele.
Through all the success, his mother Cindy Hoffman says that he is pretty casual with the attention and tries to deflection the attention away from him.
“I don’t think he shows his feelings and how much those types of things mean to him,” Cindy Hoffman said. “He tries to keep it pretty real and nonchalant.”
The success that Hoffman garnered in high school and in college has made him very popular back home. He has become sort of a celebrity in Crescent City (according to his mom there are roughly 10,000 people that live there), and Cindy Hoffman says he feels a need to give back to the community and others that look up to him.
Cindy says that growing up they taught Cody to be respectful and to be humble, recognizing that he is no better than anyone else, and she feels that has helped him to stay grounded.
Nothing is more evident than what took place after a hot and tiring practice during fall camp. After practice, Hoffman walked over and sat down in the midst of a couple former Thursday’s Heroes gathered around him, asking him for high-fives and pictures.
He let one of them put on his shoulder pads and helmet to take a picture with him. Another went for a jog with him and fellow wide out Ross Apo.
Each time he was approached, he remembered their names and when they came the first time. He talked with the kids and joked around with them, letting them know that he truly cared about them and wanted them to be happy.
“Cody loves kids, and so it’s no surprise that he does that for them,” Cindy Hoffman said. “I just always see him interact with kids because they really look up to him. He is an idol to some of them, and he does a really good job of paying it forward.”
Guy Holliday, BYU’s wide receiver coach, has noticed the same thing, recognizing that as good of a player as he is, he is an even better person.
“I think everyone looks at talent and more important to me is the type of person he is,” Holliday said. “He is a first-class person, and he really cares about people. Sometimes people outside of the football team don’t get a chance to experience that, and I enjoy that about Cody. If I had a son that I could model a person after, it would be him.”
That type of character and humility led Hoffman’s hometown of Crescent City to name him as an ambassador to the town in 2011. The city invited him to a city council meeting and gave him a plaque to recognize the accomplishment. He was thanked for his positive contribution to the town and for the inspiration that he is to everyone there.
“I was definitely surprised by that recognition,” Hoffman said. “I met the district and they gave me a paper saying that I was an ambassador. To this day, I’m not really sure what it means, but it sounds pretty cool.” His mom gave a little more insight to the importance of that recognition.
“It was a very big deal for him to be recognized by the city,” Cindy said. “He won’t say it, but it meant a lot to him for them to say those nice things about him.”
Hoffman’s road to playing football in college began when he was young. He started playing soccer and fall baseball. Driving home from those practices he would see the football team and say that he wanted to play, but his mom wouldn’t let him until he was 10 years old. In high school BYU wasn’t even on his radar.
“If you had told me that my future was to come to BYU, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” Hoffman said. “Because at that time, I didn’t even know much about BYU until I came on my visit.”
After coming on his visit, to him it made sense to come here.
“Coming out of high school, I always had the mentality that I wanted to get a scholarship,” Hoffman said. “I was lucky that BYU offered me a scholarship, and it happened to be a prestigious D1 school. I couldn’t ask for much more than that coming from the small town where I’m from. My dream is to play in the NFL, and I felt that coming here would give me the best chance to realize that dream.”
His goals have changed every year since his freshman campaign, ranging from schoolwork to being the go-to playmaker on offense. The underlying theme being that he wanted to work hard and be the best he can.
“My first year, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Hoffman said. “I mean, I came here with high expectations of doing the best that I could. First, I wanted to make sure that I passed my classes, because I found out I was going to redshirt my freshman year so my focus went to my schoolwork.”
For his senior season, his goals are not for his individual success, but for the success of his team. He knows that he will command a lot of attention from opposing teams, but he wants to make as many plays as he can.
“As far as individual goals, I don’t like to set them because you never know what is going to happen,” Hoffman said. “My main goal is to try and make every play possible and just stay within myself to help the team win. I want to make plays when I need to make plays and let my team know that they can count on me.”
Although he is all work when he is on the playing field, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to have fun.
When he goes back home, he likes to hang out with his friends down at the Smith River by his house.
“When I go home, I always go with my friends to the river,” Hoffman said. “We just hang out and jump off rocks and have a good time.”
He also likes to go out to nice places and eat well with his friends, going out for good food he says.
His favorite place is a pizza joint called Wild River Pizza. It’s up past the boarder in Oregon meaning they have to drive half an hour to get there, but it’s worth it he says.
“By far my favorite place to eat is Wild River Pizza,” Hoffman said. “I’ll order a thin crust pizza with sausage, pepperoni and salami. It’s different than your typical pizza place because they cut the pizza into diamond pieces and it’s really good.”
When he’s here in Provo, he can typically be found hanging out with teammates Kyle Van Noy and Ross Apo.
“Cody is a funny guy,” Van Noy said. “He’s always there hanging out and just making us laugh.”
Hoffman’s career highlight comes from 2011 when the Cougars played Central Florida University at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and he ran back a kickoff for a touchdown.
“It was really special because it was the first time that there had been a kickoff return in 13 years or so,” Hoffman said. “I was pretty out of breath afterwards but it was all worth it.”
BYU trailed 17-10 with roughly five minutes left in the third quarter. He received the kickoff on the right hash from the 7-yard line. Hoffman took the ball and ran untouched through the wedge and raced down the left sideline for a 93-yard return. The touchdown return was the first by a BYU player since 1998 when Mike Rigell ran one back 96 yards against Hawai’i.
Fans might also remember last season against New Mexico State when Hoffman had five touchdown receptions in one game. He set the new single-game record for TD grabs in one game. Hoffman finished the game with 12 receptions for a career-high 182 yards.
With all of the excitement about the records he has a chance to break, Hoffman is more concerned with fans knowing how hard he has worked and that he is humble and caring.
“I have put in a lot of work to get where I am today,” Hoffman said. “Everything that I have done has put me into the situation that I am today, and it has made it worth it. Records can be broken, but your character is something that will always stay with you.”
INSIDE THE RECEIVING YARDS RECORD
Before the season started, Cody Hoffman needed three touchdowns, 19 receptions and 538 yards receiving to break all three of those records. Check out the path below of those who preceded Hoffman in this attempt.
In the history of BYU football, only two receivers have held all three records concurrently. Austin Collie set all three in 2008 and Phil Odle set all three in 1967. Collie held all three records for a year and Odle held all three for 23 years.
Owen Skousen (1951-52,’55) is credited as one of the first great receivers at BYU, setting the records for most yards (896) and receptions (60) in a career.
Skousen was called into active military service before coming back for his senior year in 1955. Skousen held those records for 12 years before Odle rewrote all the major records at BYU.
Odle (1965-67), a Marine brought in by coach Tommy Hudspeth, caught balls from Virgil Carter his first two seasons, compiled 183 career receptions, 2,548 yards and 25 touchdowns. In his final year he set the conference season receptions record (77) and career touchdown record (25) and finished his career second on the NCAA career receptions list (183) in three years. Through all the great receivers that played at BYU, Odle’s records stood until 1990 until Matt Bellini broke two of his records.
Matt Bellini set records for most receptions (204) and yards (2,635) during his senior season, while primarily catching balls from Ty Detmer.
For those counting, Odle held the record for receptions and yards for 23 years.
In 1993, Eric Drage broke Odle’s TD record (29) and set a new mark for yards (3,065), eclipsing the mark Matt Bellini set in 1990. Drage (1989-93) hauled in balls from Detmer and John Walsh.
During his junior campaign, Collie set the record for receptions (215), yards (3,255) and touchdowns (30).
Dennis Pitta broke Collie’s record for career receptions with 221. Pitta has held the receptions record for three years and Collie has held the record for yards and touchdowns for four years.