Last meeting with UCLA always on LB Hobson’s mind

TUCSON, Ariz. — It’s always there in the back of Hank Hobson’s mind, an incident that likely will be around for as long as he plays football — and even beyond.

It was a “scary thing,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said, referring to Hobson’s neck injury that drew gasps and prayers for a player who seemingly was attempting to make a routine block and later falling to the turf in pain.

It was almost a year to the day, Nov. 3, 2012, against Arizona’s upcoming opponent, UCLA.

“It’s not something I don’t want to think about, but it keeps me going,” Hobson said. “It’s a motivator.”

There’s no need to remind him of the incident.

Apparently, with pain there is gain, and not so much because of the neck injury that left him on the ground for more than a few minutes — he later was carted off the field and in a Los Angeles hospital  overnight — but because Arizona didn’t look so good that night in losing 66-10 in the Rose Bowl.

“We just didn’t play well at all,” said Hobson, a 6-foot-3 , 235-pound linebacker from Bakersfield, Calif. “The game was definitely (not good).”

Arizona was down 21-0 I the first quarter and 42-3 at halftime.

It got worse with 13 minutes left — Arizona trailed 52-10 by then — when Hobson fell to the ground and no one knew what was wrong.

“I was saying every cuss word in the book because I didn’t want to come out,” he said. “Mentally, I was fine. I was fine and I didn’t want them to take me off in a stretcher. But they wanted (to be sure). “

He understands now it was the best thing to do “just because how scary it was. But the coaches knew I’d be OK.”

Few knew at the time.

“It just added insult to injury,” said teammate and friend Jake Fischer. “That was just a bad game to begin with. When he went down we were all scared. He came back stronger.”

He hasn’t played as much since, although he’s played in all eight games this season as a backup linebacker and registering four total tackles. Backing up Arizona’s defensive leader in Fishcer has something to do with that, as does the emergence of freshman Scooby Wright.

Fischer is expected to play this weekend after sitting out last week with a knee injury. If he cannot go, Hobson will be in there, Rodriguez said.

Fischer, almost a big brother to Hobson because of how close they are, said Hobson is “one of the hardest workers on the team. He’s always working out and staying late and hitting the bags with the younger guys (at the end of practice). He’s a good teacher too. He lets’ them know what to look for.”

Hobson, son of former major league third baseman Butch Hobson, says Fischer is a reason why he’s better.

“We’re always collaborating, going back and forth talking football,” he said. “It’s a blessing in disguise (playing behind Fischer). … He’s been there since my freshman year, and he’s helped me. He’s my boy.”

How does he look at the season, playing in a limited role?

“It’s been good, and I’m always learning,” he said. “There’s always something to learn … and we’re winning.”