It’s quite a time to be Dallas Hobbs.
Twice in the last eight days, the Washington State defensive lineman has hopped on a video interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines program, and he anticipates the Emmy-winning investigative series may be reaching out again soon.
Last week, Hobbs taped a segment with Good Morning America, but it never aired. ABC’s producers since reconnected, so he’s cautiously optimistic the piece will run soon. If not, he’ll have a bone to pick.
“I did an amazing 20-minute interview last week that didn’t air, then they messaged me again,” Hobbs said Monday morning. “Let’s hope this time, otherwise I’m going to have a beef with them.”
After completing 15-20 different interviews with local and national media outlets last week, and navigating a stressful and confusing week in Pullman that required him to meet with WSU’s president, athletic director and head football coach, Hobbs was looking forward to a more casual Sunday.
Not so fast.
Hobbs was making dinner when he got a FaceTime call from Stanford defensive end Dylan Boles, a fellow Iowan and the player who initially convinced him to join the Pac-12’s unity movement. Hobbs ignored the call, but was startled to see a text message from a player group chat he’d been added to.
“‘Yo, this is Trevor Lawrence,'” the text read, according to Hobbs. “And I’m like, alright who’s pranking me right now?”
Lawrence, the national-championship winning quarterback from Clemson and projected No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, had been vocal on social media earlier the same day about moving forward with college football in the fall, despite reports indicating multiple Power Five conferences were close to pulling the plug.
By Sunday night, Hobbs, Lawrence and more than a dozen of the country’s most recognizable players were on the same Zoom call, working collectively on a plan to rescue college football.
They had a catchphrase: “#WeWantToPlay.” They had a list of conditions. Now all they needed was a graphic.
Hobbs had 40 minutes.
“So I was on a time crunch and we’re sitting on FaceTime with our whole group and they’re like, ‘Alright Dallas, you’ve got about 15 minutes left. You’ve got about 10 minutes left,’” he said. “I was like, ‘Guys, this is not how magic happens.'”
At 9:01 p.m. PST, one minute after the deadline Hobbs was given, Lawrence tweeted out the final product. Within minutes, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, Alabama’s Najee Harris, USC’s Kedon Slovis and hundreds of other college players had shared it. Monday afternoon, U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted Lawrence’s post containing the graphic.
A black box placed over a green football field had logos of all five major conferences, the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big-12, ACC and SEC, and a header that read “#WeAreUnitedx#WeWantToPlay.”
Underneath were the five conditions Lawrence and others drew up during the Zoom call — most of them pertaining to health and safety protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The text itself was sent to Hobbs, saving him the trouble of typos or grammatical snafus, so once the defensive tackle opened up his computer and launched the necessary Adobe software, he let his creative genes go to work.
“I’m good at making the magic happen and making it look good,” Hobbs said. “You send me all the information, I’m not touching the keyboard, I’m just putting the pretty effects to it and everything. But it was short timing, so I was pretty nervous. I’m pretty OCD with stuff centered. But I think it turned out good with the short amount of time I had.”
It’s unclear if a last-ditch effort driven by the players themselves will be enough to rescue college football — the Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have already postponed fall seasons, and the Big Ten reportedly voted to do the same — but Sunday night’s events may have ramifications that last well beyond this week, or this fall.
“We all want the same goal, we all want to play at the end, but we were coming at it from different sides and we were like, well shoot, if we’re all deciding on the same thing we might as well come together and show we’re not divided,” Hobbs said. “We’ve got the same goal and we’re ready to really attack this together.”
Before Aug. 2, when Pac-12 football players officially rolled out their “#WeAreUnited” movement with graphics also produced by Hobbs, athletes from different schools had never made a legitimate, public attempt to unionize.
The Big Ten followed with its own movement, “#BigTenUnited,” a few days later and Sunday’s call, featuring All-Americans from just about every corner of the country, represented the first time college athletes from every major conference banded together for a common cause.
Hobbs credited Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, a co-founder of the “Uninterrupted” multimedia platform, for giving athletes the confidence to use their voice and platform.
“We kind of started to notice, we have a platform and we have a lot of power and that’s how it came about,” he said. “A lot of people slowly speaking up and realizing, hey we’re not getting in trouble for speaking up on this. Hey, we can use our voice to promote however we feel.”
While college football players have stated they want to play this fall, many are concerned there isn’t enough uniformity when it comes to health and safety protocols.
At WSU, athletes have been tested for COVID-19 once every two weeks since returning to campus in June for voluntary workouts. A weekly test would be ideal, Hobbs said, but given that fewer than 120 positive cases have been recorded in Whitman County, he feels the bi-weekly tests are sufficient.
“Pullman’s done a fabulous job,” Hobbs said. “Dr. (Sunday) Henry and Shawn (Deeds) and the facilities staff have done a great job and I really want to voice that. It’s never been about Washington State.”
Through conversations with other players in the conference, though, Hobbs has learned some schools have tested athletes just twice since early June.
“Really the unknown of what other schools are doing wrong that can compromise teams, compromise communities,” Hobbs said.
On Thursday night, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native joined other passionate Pac-12 players on a conference call with commissioner Larry Scott to discuss topics raised by the unity movement. On Saturday, players penned a letter to Scott expressing disappointment in how the commissioner handled the call, and Hobbs reaffirmed it left the group with more questions than answers.
“At the beginning, it seemed more like a lecture and not the discussion we wanted,” he said. “We didn’t get through the information we really wanted and there’s just a lot of unease there wasn’t a true plan set in place. Not enough urgency to really get things moving and put things in place.
“We’ve had five months since the spring. It was five months we could’ve put some urgency into this thing and really attacked it from a whole conference thing and making sure all schools are following the same model, which isn’t happening.”
Hobbs and two other WSU players, Kassidy Woods and Patrick Nunn, were initially under the impression joining the Pac-12’s unity movement may impact their future status on the football team.
“My initial understanding about my status on the team was that I was dismissed,” Hobbs wrote in a Twitter post Sunday. “Conversations and actions made it seem that way.”
Hobbs clarified in the post, and also in a phone interview Monday, he’s still a member of Nick Rolovich’s football team, though he hasn’t participated in mandatory team workouts since the Cougars began their 20-hour access period on Aug. 3. Hobbs said he’s still “handling a few things” and should know more about his status at WSU in the near future.
If media obligations to promote the player movement weren’t enough, the defensive tackle learned Monday afternoon a storm ripped through his hometown of Cedar Rapids. Hobbs posted a photo of a broken tree laying across the front of his home, though damage didn’t seem to be severe.
“I’d say it’s been a roller coaster and we signed up for more last night,” Hobbs said, “so it’s just going to keep coming.”