Hobbs leaves mark on IWC, still looking ahead
Ridge Hobbs has been playing football since he was in fifth grade — that’s 12 years on the gridiron.
But he’s not sure that 12 years is enough.
The Iowa Wesleyan College football season — and Hobbs’ college career — officially ended on Nov. 9 with a road loss to Northwestern in St. Paul, Minn.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hobbs said. “It’s been the same routine for four years — when it’s over, I start waiting for spring ball. Maybe when it gets to that time, it will sink in.”
Ever since fifth grade, there’s always been another season to look forward to.
Now, he could start looking back. He has set two school receiving records in a successful career at IWC, which followed a standout high school career at New London.
But instead, he finds himself still looking forward. He’s saving the reminiscing for when he’s sure that playing football is no longer an option.
Hobbs capped his college career with 784 yards in 43 receptions this season, including 11 touchdown catches.
And he did it all just down the road from where he grew up.
“(Friends and family came to games) all the time,” Hobbs said. “This year, with some closer games, they even came to a couple away games. But they were at every home game.”
And he certainly gave them something to watch.
Hobbs is in the IWC record books with 34 career touchdowns, six more than Bruce Carter’s record set in 1991.
He also has the highest number of career receiving yards with 3,082, breaking the record of 2,196 set in 1991 by Marcus Washington.
“(The significance of setting school records) might hit me a few years down the road, when I look back,” he imagines. “I take pride in leaving a mark, because I think it reflects on how much I helped the team. That was always most important — helping the team was always my main goal.”
IWC Head Coach Tom Parkevich agrees that both records are a testament to Hobbs’ dedication to his team.
“He was an athlete with high praise — a very good athlete in high school — and for him to come here, and stay here, especially with coaching changes, he really believed in Iowa Wesleyan,” Parkevich said. “He could have easily gone to a bigger school and probably won a few more games.”
Hobbs was a first team all-state selection in high school. He was recruited to Iowa Wesleyan by Coach Kent Anderson, who was a part of the reason Hobbs chose to play for the Tigers.
But Anderson left the school after Hobbs’ sophomore season, and Parkevich took over.
Hobbs has also seen his team change affiliations (from NAIA to NCAA) and conferences (from the MCC to the UMAC).
This year, he had a change in quarterback as well: Zandro Diaz took over for Kevin McConnell, a close friend of Hobbs who is in the record books as well — McConnell is No. 2 on the IWC all-time list in career passing yards.
“He (Diaz) had gotten in a few games last year, so we knew what we had with him,” Hobbs said. “We had a good friendship, and we communicated well on the field. Obviously, me and Kevin (McConnell) had good success together, but me and Zandro (Diaz) had a good year, too.”
Even through all the changes, Hobbs stuck with the Tigers.
“It shows that he thought a lot of the area to stay here. That’s who I want to build a program on — local standouts,” Parkevich said. “He’s exactly what we want Iowa Wesleyan football to be about: he had good character, he’s a good student, as well as a good athlete.
“We need to find the next Ridge Hobbs; hopefully, a few of them.”
Hobbs, who stands 6-2 and weighs 195 pounds, was the player that the Tigers looked to in the end zone.
His 11 touchdown receptions seems to be a habit for him: he has finished each of the last three seasons with 11 touchdowns.
“Being the biggest receiver, you get the most looks towards the end zone,” he said. “That’s been the strength of my game — I treat the ball like a rebound, and I go up to get it.”
This year, Hobbs caught his 11th touchdown pass in the Oct. 26 game against Greenville College, but couldn’t get past that mark. He went without a TD catch in his last two games — but not for consistency’s sake, he promises.
“Towards the end of this year, defenses kind of figured it out,” he said. They started paying more attention to him as the Tigers got closer to the end zone.
The first year he had 11 TD catches was his sophomore season.
That year, there was one game on the IWC schedule against a club team, which didn’t count towards the team’s official record or statistics.
In that game, Hobbs racked up another four receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns — that would have given him 14 touchdowns on the season and more than 1,000 yards.
“I was just the fourth receiver to do that (finish with more than 1,000 receiving yards) in school history,” he said. “I knew it when it happened, but I didn’t do anything to celebrate until Kevin (McConnell) came over to congratulate me. It was really exciting — I felt like we did it together.”
McConnell and Hobbs worked well together, but the full extent of their numbers that year are not on paper.
They got to celebrate that 1,000-yard mark, and Hobbs will certainly remember it; however, since the game did not count, he had to wait for his 1,000-yard season — that came last year.
Hobbs has no regrets from his career at IWC.
“I did everything I could,” he said. “You always think there could be more, but I played every game as hard as I could.”
And it shows in the career marks that Hobbs has made. His big numbers in his sophomore season were the start to Hobbs becoming one of the best receivers in the history of a team that includes the creation of the air raid offense.
Many of the passing and receiving records at IWC — including the ones broken by Hobbs — are from the early 1990s, when Hal Mumme and Mike Leach instituted the start of the air raid offense, a pass-centered scheme.
“To be able to be in the conversation with those guys is pretty cool — especially considering where they ended up,” Hobbs said.
Both Mumme and Leach went on to coach at NCAA Division I schools, as did a receiver who came through IWC in the early 1990s — Dana Holgorsen, a Mt. Pleasant graduate who has gone on to implement the aggressive offense in his coaching position at West Virginia University.
Hobbs will graduate in December with a degree in exercise science, and he has a few choices to make.
“I have to decide if I want to keep playing at the next level, wherever that may be,” he said. “I’m mostly just talking about it right now — I talked to Coach (Parkevich) last week, and we’re going to talk to some people about what options I have.
“Right now, it’s just about getting my name out there.”
Most Division III teams just finished their seasons this past weekend — IWC did not have a bye week this year, so they finished a week early. And other college football teams are still playing.
“We’ll put together some film, and as the college football season ends, we (the IWC coaching staff) will get contacted by scouts, to see if there’s anyone who we think could keep playing,” Parkevich said. “There are a lot of (players like) Ridge Hobbs out there, but I know he has the ability to keep playing. We’re looking at all avenues.”
And there are a lot of different avenues — aside from the NFL, college football players can go on to compete in numerous indoor leagues and overseas leagues.
“There are a lot of different leagues out there — he might not be playing every Sunday, but he can keep playing,” Parkevich said, who knows from experience. “I was fortunate enough to play two years of football in Europe.”
For Hobbs, what the decision will come down to is what avenue opens up and whether or not he thinks playing another season there is worth it.
If not, he may decide to pursue a career as a personal trainer or a coach.
No matter what, he’d like to stay close to the game. He hasn’t been able to get away from it yet, and he doesn’t want to.
“The routine hasn’t changed much — I still work out like normal, like I have a game on Saturday,” he said.
But of course, his Saturdays are now wide open.
“I think I’ll enjoy it for a bit, and treat it as a little break,” Hobbs said.
He just isn’t ready to be done.
“That’s exactly it,” he said. “I think it hasn’t really sunk in yet because I don’t know if I really believe I’m done. I don’t think I’m done. I’m not ready to be done.”