As the son of a former Huskies quarterback, Joey Hobert naturally listened when University of Washington recruiters came wooing.
“They were definitely on my list for a while, just because that’s what I grew up with,” the Washington State second-year freshman receiver said this week. “But once I came here and actually looked at the school, it wasn’t even close.
“I mean, not only is the school beautiful, the team is awesome, the people around here are super-supportive. It’s a great college in town in general.”
So Hobert, whose father, Billy Joe, led Washington to a national title, won’t have any hint of mixed feelings in his first Apple Cup when the Cougars and Huskies clash for the 113rd time at 5 p.m. Friday (FS1) at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
He said his dad won’t either.
“Not too much of a decision,” he said of his commitment to the Cougars in June 2019, “but I’m definitely glad (to be at WSU), especially because my dad’s with me too now (as a WSU supporter). He’s got my back the whole way.”
The Cougars (6-5, 5-3) will try to keep their hopes alive for the Pac-12 North title and to end a seven-game losing streak against Washington (4-7, 3-5).
A backup slotback, Hobert has made big strides the past few games and enters this regular-season finale with 13 catches for 183 yards and a 55-yard touchdown. In a 44-18 home win against Arizona this past Friday, he solidly blocked a punt to score a safety for the Cougars, after partially blocking one earlier in the game.
“Coach set up a great scheme for the team we were playing,” he said of special teams coordinator Kyle Krantz. “Every player pushed to their limits. (I) went down, free hole, went right through it. Saw the punter, saw the ball and just went for it.”
The Apple Cup has spawned plenty of split-loyalty stories among its participating families, including that of recent WSU linebacker Peyton Pelluer, whose older brother, Cooper, and uncle, Steve, played for Washington. The Hobert version is especially stark — a Husky dad and a Cougar son, playing different but prominent positions.
On the other hand, dad’s college career was complicated. Billy Joe Hobert quarterbacked the 1991 Huskies that were crowned national champions in the coaches’ poll, but the next season he was at the center of an NCAA scandal involving a $50,000 loan he’d received. That led to a premature end to his college career (he would spend nine years in the NFL) and played a role in a two-year bowl ban pinned on the Huskies, followed by the resignation of longtime coach Don James. Billy Joe has said he received death threats.
Also, Joey grew up in California’s Orange County and was less steeped in Apple Cup mania than his father had been as a young Dawgs fan in Puyallup, Wash. The younger Hobert’s Apple Cup experience was limited to “watching games from the living room — just my dad cussing out the TV every now and then, yelling, our whole family going wild for the Huskies,” he said.
“But the Huskies — they’re the Huskies,” he said. “We’re the Cougs. It’s just going to be a big game and I’m really hyped that I’m in crimson this year.”
Cougars interim coach Jake Dickert said Tuesday that safety Daniel Isom and cornerback Chau Smith-Wade are doubtful for the Apple Cup after sustaining unspecified injuries against Arizona.
Hence new opportunities for three transfers from other Football Bowl Subdivision schools: safety Tyrone Hill Jr. (University of Buffalo) and cornerbacks Chris Jackson (Michigan State) and Kaleb Ford-Dement (Old Dominion).
Junior safety Halid Djibril, who has been sidelined for 10 games with an injury, entered the NCAA transfer portal Monday.
“I’m proud of HD because he’s going to be getting his degree this fall and he starts with a new opportunity,” Dickert said. “We support him and wish him the best.”
Grummert may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2290.