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From Football to Food

One UNC student is using culinary arts to inspire other athletes

Article by Susan McKenzie

Photography by MB Film & Photo

Originally published in Greeley Lifestyle

David Hoage didn't think college was in his cards. As a first-generation student, the focus was always on getting through high school. A college education seemed out of reach, until a faculty member at his Denver high school, Smoky Hill, encouraged him. Aleshia Armour inspired Hoage to explore the college route by giving him the resources and advising support he needed to eventually receive a full-ride football scholarship to the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). Now, Hoage is about to complete double majors in Sports Medicine Exercise Science, and Nutrition. 

Hoage has major plans post-college to pursue a career in sports, and nutrition, which has always been a passion for him. He is fascinated with food and flavors and what food does for the human body. “It’s like an art form you can experiment while putting smiles on people’s faces,” said Hoage. His mom taught him to cook at a young age and he immediately fell in love. “I used to burn water,” Hoage said laughing, “But now, my sisters and I are the cooks of the household.” The Food Network quickly replaced Hoage's Saturday morning cartoons, and he frequently challenges his cook-offs and competitions with his sisters. 

Hoage brought his love of the culinary arts with him to college, where he studied abroad learning from some of the world’s top chefs. He spent time in Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and Venice, experienced different textures and tastes, and of course, a lot of pizza! Hoage has always been fascinated with different types of diets. "We learned a lot about Italian food, but we also dove into the Mediterranean diet, said Hoage.  "Everything in Europe is so natural, not filled with preservatives like the food here,” Hoage said he spent the majority of his time abroad expanding his flavor palate and learning to think outside the box. “We learned not only how to make a meal great, but make it the way you personally want it to be," said Hoage. "It’s like a signature at the bottom of a painting.” Hoage's European travels allowed him to learn about different cultural foods and basic techniques including knife work. “We studied with different chefs, but even outside the program, we were able to pick the brains of the chefs of the restaurants we were eating at. Every single one of them had different tips for us.” 

While abroad, Hoage completely immersed himself in the food, wine, and culture of France, Spain, and Italy. The knowledge Hoage gained from the program influenced his cooking and has inspired him to empower other athletes in their food journey. Hoage wants to be a nutritionist for athletes. "That’s something that’s lacking in this field," said Hoage. "It would change the way people play and keep their bodies from breaking down,” Hoage said he has an interest in working with all types of athletes, from high schoolers where he can help build a foundation of healthy choices, to the pro leagues where he could gain more knowledge and learn from other professionals. Eventually, Hoage would also like to own his own restaurant where he could experiment with flavors and techniques, providing his patrons with their own, delicious works of art.

Outside of studying, playing football, and cooking, Hoage strives to be a mentor for other first-generation students. “There are many students that feel the same way I felt coming to college," said Hoage. To know they have someone to talk to and feel supported will hopefully help their experience.”  Hoage is grateful for the support he received from the staff at both Smoky Hill and UNC and believes it served as a stepping stone to the person he is today. 

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