Ben Roethlisberger came home Saturday and brought Terry Hoeppner with him.
Miami University introduced its 2013 Hall of Fame class during the men’s basketball game against Akron at Millett Hall, and Roethlisberger — a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers — said he was thrilled to enter the Hall with the late Hoeppner, who recruited and coached him at MU.
“I know he is here in spirit with us,” Roethlisberger said. “Going in with Coach Hep, it couldn’t get any better.”
Hoeppner, who died of brain cancer in 2007, was represented by his wife Jane on Saturday. She said it was an emotional day that was capped with the induction ceremony.
“When I was given the announcement that Terry was going to be put into the Hall of Fame and Ben at the same time, it was perfect,” Hoeppner said. “It was as it should be.
“Terry was an example of someone who was so good at what he did. He was successful as a coach, but he was also successful at how he lived it out and how he chose to go about his business. He wanted to do it the right way.”
Joining Roethlisberger and Hoeppner in this year’s class are Dale Cohen (Class of 1994, women’s tennis), P.L. (Pete) Miller (1971, men’s track & field), Karin Sherr (1999, synchronized skating) and Kyle Voska (1998, golf).
Roethlisberger was Saturday’s headliner and spoke about his affection for Miami and the degree that he finalized in 2012. His last football season in Oxford was 2003, when the RedHawks went 13-1 and earned a No. 10 ranking by the Associated Press.
“I’m honored to be a graduate, to have my number retired, to be in the Hall of Fame now and to say that I went to Miami,” Roethlisberger said. “People all the time ask, why Miami? And I say obviously the academics and a chance to play early and Coach Hoeppner.”
Of the bachelor’s degree in education that he picked up last May, the 30-year-old Findlay High School graduate said it was something he always hoped to obtain.
“It was a bigger goal early on, and then as you start getting sidetracked, offseasons get shorter and things are going on,” Roethlisberger said. “Having a son on the way — and now he’s here — it just kind of motivated me further to get it done and just to tell my son and hopefully more kids that I got my degree and how important education is.”
He said the 2003 Miami team was a memorable group.
“I know we struggled that first game (a 21-3 loss to Iowa), but I think we could’ve beat anybody in the country,” Roethlisberger said. “I just think from top to bottom, from the ADs to the coaches to the players, it was just something special.
“This was one of the first schools, if not the first, to offer me a scholarship. Coach Hep took a chance on me, a kid that never played quarterback until his senior year of high school. That’s why I love this school and Coach Hep so much. They gave me a chance to prove what I was capable of doing.”
Jane Hoeppner said she has a bond with Roethlisberger and all the athletes that played for her husband.
“We had a gathering (Friday) night, and when you’re here 19 years, there’s a lot of different players that you get to cross paths with,” she said. “It was fun to see them now as husbands and fathers, but to a man, they all had something to say about coach, (about) some way that he made their time here special. So yes, I have a lot of memories. It feels like coming home.”