Hobson's football career moves onward after severe injury
Football might feel bigger than life at times, but a freak injury last year brought things back into perspective for a moment.
During the final quarter of UCLA’s 66-10 blowout of Arizona on Nov. 3, linebacker Hank Hobson grabbed his right shoulder and collapsed after engaging with a Bruin blocker. The medical staff carted the sophomore off the field. He was then taken straight to a local hospital in Pasadena, Calif.
Hobson had re-aggravated a nerve injury in his neck, one that initially kept him out of fall camp and the first two games of the season.
The sophomore’s season was over. His health, luckily, was still intact.
“All in all, I’m really grateful I can still play,” Hobson said. “It’s truly a blessing that it all turned out the way it did, because it could have been so much worse.”
From an onlooker’s perspective, the injury was terrifying. All of the feeling on the right side of his body — head, arm and side — just “went out numb,” he said.
But for someone who had already gone through a similar situation, he was more aggravated by the safety precautions the medical staff took.
“I was [cursing at] the trainers,” he said. “I wasn’t happy at all. Taking me out on that thing?
“I just really wanted to get back out; I just wanted to get on the sideline. Of course they carted me off. Honestly, at that point it was just a waiting game before I could move, feel my arm.”
All of his cursing and frustration was for naught, though, and he still went to the hospital for tests. The feeling returned after a few hours, he said, eliminating the fear of any permanent damage.
Four months removed from the injury, Hobson is “past 100 percent” and back on the field. While he was in the conversation for starting linebacker before the initial injury, Hobson is playing with the second unit on defense.
Considering all he went through last season, that’s not a bad place to start.
“It was kind of scary seeing one of your really good buddies, and someone you play with, go through that,” linebacker Jake Fischer said.
A tall, square neck brace protruding from the back of Hobson’s jersey is the only lingering reminder of the injuries last season. Of course, Fischer and the rest of the defense “give him crap” about the brace, so it might be hard to forget.
The stinger — which Hobson reluctantly calls it, thinking it makes him sound “wimpy” — might have derailed his season, but he’s not letting it hold him back now. In fact, Hobson is using it as motivation to play better.
“Honestly, what I took from it is I had to get stronger, and that’s ultimately what I did,” Hobson said.
“Usually when you get hurt, it means you’re not strong enough. That’s how I look at it — try to get stronger, get better and we will take it from here.”
His desire to bulk up hasn’t gone unnoticed. Both head coach Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel have talked about his increase in size and strength. Casteel also described him as a “great kid” and someone who works hard in the film room, weight room and practice field.
“He’s a bright-eyed kid, and he’s going to continue to get better the more reps he gets,” Casteel said.
Last season, he recorded 14 total tackles with 2.0 for a loss and one sack in a limited seven games of play. Hobson now has the opportunity to make a name for himself, and his renewed dedication is boosting his chances. “He works his tail off,” Fischer said. “He’s one of the hardest workers on the team.
“He may not be the fastest guy, but he knows what he’s doing, and he tries to perfect his craft every day.”
Hobson wasn’t the only linebacker to see a freak injury last season. His roommate, Rob Hankins, was forced to retire from football after sustaining too many concussions. Fortunately for Hobson, he still has another chapter in his career. But his injury, along with Hankins’, puts football into perspective.
“That’s something you never wish on someone,” he said about Hankins’ injury. “You never want that to happen to anyone, especially when it comes to the head.
“There’s life after football; you really have to think about that.”