A football is inevitably going to get thrown around the house when your father is a former NFL quarterback. So it’s no surprise the spectacular catches receiver Joey Hobert made throughout his senior season at San Juan Hills High in San Juan Capistrano can be traced back to a living room couch.
Joey would run full speed across the room at the same time his father, Billy Joe, threw balls toward the couch. Joey launched himself horizontally to snag passes in midair before hitting the cushions. As Joey grew, so did the acrobatics as Billy Joe tried to get the football past him, but eventually the couch-diving catches came to a completion.
“We had to end it because he was getting too big. He was starting to put dents in the wall when he slammed into the couch,” Billy Joe said with a laugh. “But nobody got in trouble … we never let the wife know.”
Football and couches have long been part of the relationship between Billy Joe and his only son, the youngest of five children, as they’ve long watched games together. A recent game, though, had different implications.
Bragging rights were at stake during this year’s Apple Cup. Billy Joe led Washington to a share of the national championship in the 1991 season. Joey has committed to play at Washington State in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.
“It was kind of a crazy situation,” Joey said of his commitment. “My dad knew Washington State was a great school for me. He knew they have the best passing offense in the nation. They throw the ball 50-plus times a game and he knew it’s my life. He doesn’t want me to live what he did. He just wants me to do me. So that’s what I did.”
The Apple Cup was held the Friday between Thanksgiving and the Southern Section Division 4 championship that San Juan Hills won 21-15 against Loyola. (Hobert had two touchdowns in the game.)
Having family in town for the holiday/championship festivities, Joey expected it to be an intense scene with plenty of trash talking. The game was not competitive. Washington easily won its seventh straight in the rivalry, 31-13, and the back-and-forth banter was minimal.
“Believe me, if the Cougars had played better, there would’ve been a little bit more trash talking going on,” Billy Joe said. “It sucked for both of us. Me because I had to see my son watch his future team not play very well and lose the biggest game of the year. Him, because … well he had to watch his future team not play well.”
Billy Joe doesn’t know if he’ll wear any gear with Washington State logos going forward. “It’s hard enough trying to figure out which shade of red ‘crimson’ is,” he joked.
But his allegiance will shift next season when Joey begins suiting up for Washington State.
“Loyalty is a choice. I chose to be loyal [to Washington] for 30-plus years now,” he said. “Thought it would never leave me, but blood is blood. I’m no different than any father. My loyalty lies with him.”
Joey’s recruitment was slow to take off. He missed most of his sophomore season after breaking his collarbone and as an undersized 5-foot-11, 175-pound receiver, he had to prove himself over and over before schools really started taking notice.
He caught 46 passes for 643 yards and nine scores his junior year and had a monster senior year with 25 total touchdowns, five interceptions and nearly 2,000 total yards. But it was during the spring evaluation period that he began to garner attention with his athleticism, toughness and ability to create separation.
Hobert earned scholarship offers from Washington State, Brigham Young and some Mountain West programs.
He committed to Washington State while taking an unofficial visit to Pullman during the summer. He knew it was the perfect fit. He has always loved the outdoors and the state of Washington.
“We used to go up there all the time to visit family and I used to be like, ‘Man, I wish I lived up here and I wish I was just raised in this atmosphere where I could go hunting or I could be messing around in the snow with a dog,’ “ Hobert said. “Then I took my official visit. It was a game against Colorado. It was the game with the most rain, the windiest game, cold … and super fun.”