Colorado's Vincent Hobbs was on his way to a big play when a UCLA defender punched the ball out of his hands on Saturday.
The Bruins recovered and it turned out to be a pivotal play in CU's 42-14 loss.
If Hobbs had his way, that would be the worst part of his first season as a Buffalo.
Instead, the worst moment for the true freshman tight end came on Sept. 16, when he got a call from his mother that his father, Leon, fell and was in the hospital. Doctors found a tumor on Leon's spine and he has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since that fall.
"It's not too good," Hobbs said. "My father is paralyzed as we speak, but rehab is going on. He's speaking, he's talking, he's laughing, so that's all that matters. As long as he's breathing, I'm good."
The news hit Hobbs and his family hard, though. Shortly after receiving the call from his mom, Hobbs flew home to Dallas and spent that week with his family. He was in Texas when his teammates were in Pullman, Wash., on Sept. 22, defeating Washington State, 35-34.
Although he's been with the team the past week and a half, Hobbs still battles every day to keep his focus when he's on the football field.
"It's tough on him right now and it's on his mind," CU tight ends coach J.D. Brookhart said. "He's working through it."
Hobbs said the long-term prognosis for Leon, 57, is unknown.
"If he can walk again, it's not going to be until probably years later," Hobbs said.
"It's weighing on me pretty hard, but you know, I love him and he's talking to me. I talk to him every day. I'm going home this weekend to go see him and spend time with him, so that'll make me have a lot of weight off my shoulders."
From the time he arrived in Boulder, Hobbs has had a lot of weight on his shoulders. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder came to CU with high expectations. Brookhart raves about Hobbs' athletic ability and pass-catching skills. Quarterback Jordan Webb is also excited about the weapon Hobbs can become.
"You can see he's going to be really good in the open field for us," Webb said. "He's got good hands and he's a big body. That's just something you can't teach."
To this point, Hobbs has not made the impact that perhaps some thought he would. He has just three catches for 51 yards -- 31 of those coming on the play against UCLA in which he fumbled. Had he held onto the ball, there's no telling how many yards he would have gained or how that play could have made a difference in the game. CU was trailing by just 14 at the time.
Hobbs, to his credit, doesn't shy away from talking about that play.
"Freshman mistakes, everyone has them," he said. "It just makes me become a great player in the future. Once I saw it on the big screen, the hole couldn't be more open for me. I just thought I have to move on; all my players are encouraging me to move on."
Hobbs figured there would be tough moments this season. In fact, Brookhart warned him ahead of time that it wouldn't be easy.
"He told me from the get-go ... I was going to be confused the first four games," Hobbs said. "That's exactly what's happened, but I'm picking up as we progress on."
Brookhart has seen Hobbs go through some growing pains on the field, but was quick to point out that Hobbs really hasn't been on the field that much and that he will get better with more experience.
"Sometimes you have to go through some growing pains," Brookhart said. "(The fumble is) hopefully a valuable lesson for his future."
Hobbs is no stranger to growing pains. He went through them as a young high school player, too, and he said this experience is similar in many ways.
"I'm just going to have to get used to it, just like I did in high school," he said. "Obviously I have a lot of improving to do."
When Hobbs does get used to the college game, the general consensus is that he's going to be a star. Webb is eager to see what kind of playmaker Hobbs can be come, and so is Brookhart.
"When he knows enough to play fast, that's when it's going to come out," Brookhart said.
Trials on the field and his father's health have already made this a challenging season for Hobbs, yet he may turn out better for it in the long run.
"It's made me stronger from the get-go, from the time I heard him, saw him," Hobbs said. "He made me stronger. The first words he told me was to go out there and grind and that's what I've got to do.
"While I'm here, I'm going to work my fundamentals, obviously not fumbling the ball and carrying it right. Then, I'll get to go home (this weekend) and see my family, so it ought to be a good week."
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