Arizona Wildcats linebacker Hank Hobson put his right hand at the side of his face and gestured all the way down his body.
“The right side of my head, my right arm and all of my side just went out, numb. Couldn’t move it, couldn’t feel it,” he said after practice last week.
Hobson was talking about the moment he collapsed in the fourth quarter of last season’s game at UCLA. He took on a blocker, staggered as he turned to pursue running back Johnathan Franklin, then dropped to the ground.
Trainers attended to him for several minutes before strapping him to a board and carting him off the field. Hobson stayed overnight at a hospital.
“When we talked to the neurologist, he was like, ‘How long did it last?’” Hobson said of the numbness.
“‘Oh a couple hours, three hours.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, that’s not too long.’”
Hobson laughed at the memory.
“Yeah, for you maybe,” he said.
Hobson didn’t play again after the UCLA game, missing the final four games, doing his rehab, but he was back at practice as Arizona began spring drills this month, feeling, in his words, “100 percent.”
He says he had been struggling with a nerve problem all season before the scary moment at the Rose Bowl.
“They said it was like a stinger — which, of course, I think that sounds like a wimpy kind of deal,” Hobson said. “I don’t know, just a nerve was all messed up.”
Hobson (6-3, 224) arrived for the 2011 season along with fellow freshman Rob Hankins, the future of the linebacker position for the Cats. It hasn’t worked out that way for either, but at least Hobson still has a chance.
Because of depth problems, Hobson and Hankins were thrown into the deep end as freshmen, before they were really ready, and Hankins never made it to his sophomore season, having to give up football during 2012 fall camp because of concussion problems.
Hobson, who probably was in line to be a starter in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season, never found traction because of the nerve problem, missing the first two games of the season. He made 14 tackles in seven games.
“Definitely, this is the year I’m most looking forward to,” Hobson said.
This might be his time. A healthy Hobson would be a welcome sight to a linebacker corps looking for more depth, despite returning three starters.
Senior Jake Fischer is back in the middle. Senior Marquis Flowers returns at an outside linebacker spot (he could also see situational time at his more natural safety position). Sophomore walk-on Sir Thomas Jackson started all but one game at weak-side linebacker.
Those three were overly taxed in games last season, and never faced much competition in practice. That will change if Dakota Conwell and C.J. Dozier make big jumps as sophomores and Hobson stays healthy after losing most of last season.
“Hank is a guy who has worked and gotten stronger, a lot stronger than what he was at this time last year,” said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. “He’s a bright-eyed kid and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Said Hobson: “I have a long way to go.”
For now, Hobson is a 4-H player — healthy, hard-working, hungry and humble in the face of his injury scare.
“All in all, I’m grateful I can still play,” Hobson said.
“It’s a blessing it all turned out the way it did, because it could have been so much worse. I am where I am, and I have to get better from here.”