The letter came addressed to Billy Joe Hobert. There was no return address.
But while the writer’s identity was a mystery, his sentiments were not.
Referring to the guns Hobert purchased with money from a series of loans he took while at the University of Washington, the anonymous correspondent wrote:
“You ought to take those guns and shoot your hands off. Then try to find a way to shoot your brains out. Wait, don’t shoot your brains out. That would be a wasted bullet.”
The Raiders’ third-string quarterback will be returning to his hometown Sunday when his team plays the Seattle Seahawks at Seattle. Hobert is not expecting a brass band and a parade around the Kingdome.
A safe arrival and departure would do just fine, thank you.
This is Hobert’s first trip home since the Pacific 10 Conference levied harsh penalties against Washington because of a series of violations. The first break in the scandal was the revelation that Hobert, then Washington’s quarterback, had accepted a series of loans totaling $50,000 in violation of NCAA rules.
Hobert was kicked off the team and was subjected to boos from classmates and acts of vandalism from unknown perpetrators before he finally moved to the heat of the Arizona desert to get out of the heat in Washington.
But now he’s going back. And he knows the heat is still on. He knows by the fact that he has recently received 10 or 12 nasty letters like the one above, some postmarked from Los Angeles, some from Washington.
They have contained such remarks as, “I’ll shoot you if you come to Seattle,” “You deserve to die” and “Blow your head off.”
Hobert says he has been able to shake it all off.
“I’m not too worried about it,” he said. “I expected it. But I know the NFL is going to take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of my family.”
The Raiders concede that there will be added protection Sunday, but refuse to elaborate.
Originally, the members of Hobert’s family who still live near Seattle were going to stay away from the Kingdome on Sunday. But they have decided to take the opposite stance against all the intimidation. They are going to the game in force, 20 strong.
“My dad’s attitude is, . . . them,” Hobert said.
Hobert was born in Puyallup, about 35 miles outside Seattle, and he still plans to eventually settling in the area. As a matter of fact, he recently purchased land there. Has any of this uproar caused him to rethink his plans?
“No, it will be home to me again,” Hobert said. “I’m just temporarily out of service. I heard a saying a long time ago that the way to handle situations is adapt, overcome and improvise. I’m constantly adapting to new situations because things change so rapidly in my life that I have to. So this is just one of those things that I have to adjust to and overcome.
“I’m not concerned by what people think because it will blow over. The people that know me up in Washington understand the situation. They’re not happy with it. I’m not happy with what I did.
“I’m sure the people sending the letters have no clue what’s going on. They think they know everything and they want to be the ones to put Billy Joe in his place.”
While Hobert is more than willing to stand up to his critics, the one person he finds difficult to face is his former coach, Don James, who resigned after 18 years as Washington’s head coach after the penalties were announced. Hobert and James haven’t spoken since the Pac-10 verdict came down.
“I haven’t really had the nerve to call him,” Hobert said, “because I don’t really know what to say to him. Right now, I’m just going to let it blow over and when we run into each other, then we’ll have a discussion. In the meantime, he’s got to go on with his life and I’ve got to do my chores here.”
His chores Sunday will consist of standing on the sidelines, unless someone gets hurt.
Hobert remains confident the security will be adequate.
“It would be bad for the NFL,” he said with a grin, “if somebody gets shot on the sidelines.”