When A.J. Carty committed to the Huskies, family friend Billy Joe Hobert handed over his 1992 Rose Bowl ring. When Carty returned the ring, Hobert had a message: “Now go get one of your own."
We’ll get to the discussion about the algorithm A.J. Carty helped create to improve the nutritional intake for his teammates on the Washington football team.
But first, a little story about a Rose Bowl ring.
The ring belongs to Billy Joe Hobert, the Washington quarterback who was the co-MVP (with Steve Emtman) of the Huskies’ 34-14 triumph over Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl. That win, of course, secured for Washington a share of the 1991 national championship.
The ring right now, on a Friday morning four days before Christmas, is sitting in the center console of a Dodge Ram 1500 on Interstate 5 somewhere near Sacramento.
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Hobert doesn’t wear the ring often. Shoot, he doesn’t even know where his Rose Bowl MVP trophy is.
“That’s just material,” Hobert said in a phone interview Friday morning in the middle of a 1,200-mile drive from his Southern California home to Puyallup to visit family for the holidays.
“I don’t hang on to nostalgia.”
Fair or not, Hobert will forever be linked to the scandal that rocked UW football not long after the 1992 Rose Bowl. You know that story. Anyway, this isn’t about him. It’s more about the ring and the small gesture he once made to a high school long snapper.
“It is kind of crazy how the world flips back on us,” Hobert said.
• • •
A.J. Carty is a fourth-year junior from Santa Ana, Calif., and he is in his second season as the Huskies’ primary long snapper. In his free time (ha!) he studies Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences and creates algorithms (and he tries to explain all that a little bit more later, but good luck trying to make sense of any of it).
Anyway, his family and Hobert’s family are close.
A.J. Carty’s little sister and Hobert’s youngest daughter are good friends. They visited Knott’s Berry Farm together the other day, and they played soccer together for most of their lives.
“We’re very good family friends with him,” Carty said after a practice at Husky Stadium earlier this week. “He’s such a great guy. Such a funny guy.”
Said Hobert: “Love A.J. He is legit one of my favorite people on the planet. I’m pretty sure he’s a genius.”
Billy Joe Hobert remains an avid Husky fan.
He brought his son, Joey, to the Huskies’ first College Football Playoff game two years ago in Atlanta. He was at the Washington-UCLA game in the Rose Bowl on Oct. 6, and he already has his Rose Bowl ticket for the Huskies’ first appearance in The Granddaddy of Them All since 2001. (Life update: Hobert on Thursday was announced as the new coach of the freshman team at San Juan (Calif.) Hills High School; Joey was a standout receiver and defensive back as a junior for the San Juan varsity team this season.)
So back in June 2014, Carty made a decision to accept a scholarship from the Huskies. He was going to be their long snapper, and Hobert was as thrilled as anyone about that.
To celebrate, Hobert handed over his Rose Bowl ring. Carty kept it only for one night, but he appreciated the gesture and the motivation. When he returned the ring the next day, Hobert had a message:
“Now go get one of your own.”
• • •
Carty thinks he played maybe the best game of his Husky career in UW’s 10-3 victory over Utah during the Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Nov. 30. Funny now, he says a few weeks later, to think how stressed he was that morning.
“Math 381: Discrete Mathematical Modeling” had a mandatory peer presentation scheduled for Friday, Nov. 30. The presentation counted as 40 percent of the grade for the class. Fortunately, Carty had planned ahead — anticipating and hoping the Huskies would be in the Pac-12 title game— and he said professor Sara Billey was amenable to allowing him to give his presentation remotely over FaceTime.
So about five hours before kickoff, Carty sat a desk in the team hotel and presented — with his two group-mates back in Seattle — the computer modeling program they had created to optimize spending and eating habits of the UW football team.
“It was pretty crazy, on the day of the game, in the afternoon,” Carty said. “The night before I was sitting there scrambling, trying to get everything together. I’m not the best public speaker anyway. I’m a quiet person, so it was stressful.”
As a long snapper, Carty prefers working in anonymity.
“My thing is, if there’s a fan who knows my name, I’ve done a bad job,” he said. “That’s one thing I say to Coach Pete: ‘The less you think about me, the better I’m doing.’ I don’t want publicity.”
Carty and his classmates spent most of the fall analyzing what UW football players ate and how much the UW football program spent on food. UW has contracts with several catering companies, including El Gaucho, to provide meals for football players, and Carty’s group worked closely on the project with Kyle Sammons, the team’s sports science coordinator, and Aaron Knotts, the team’s chief of staff.
Carty said the Sammons is still running through some of the projections, but Carty believes their algorithm could reduce UW’s costs substantially.
“We were trying to minimize cost while maximizing nutrition, so we created an algorithm to help solve it,” Carty said. “It was a combination of integer and linear programming, and then we came out with a solution with a bunch of menu options and lowering costs. It was pretty cool. It was really interesting for me because it’s something that’s involved in my everyday, so I got go see what actually goes into our meals and stuff like that. It was a pretty long project, but it was really fun and I enjoyed it.”
Carty is among a handful of UW football players studying a rigorous major. Offensive linemen Matt James and Luke Wattenberg are engineering majors; punter Joel Whitford is an architecture major; fellow long snapper Luke Lane is pre-med.
“I don’t always get a lot of sleep, but I really love it,” Carty said. “The five of us bond together with little sleep.”
Now Carty is preparing to head back home to Southern California for Christmas and after that play against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
“I’m from there, so it’s been a dream since I was old enough to know what the Rose Bowl was,” he said.
“I’m still just the long snapper,” he added, “but I do my job and hopefully everyone’s happy.”