MERRILLVILLE -- Bobby Babcock is an elite high school football player, quick to the ball, fierce with his tackles and a lock-down game-changer for the Hobart Brickies.
Yet, he had tears streaming down his face after a 33-10 dominating win at Father Eckert Field on Friday night at Andrean.
The 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker had three tackles for loss, defended and batted away several passes thrown his way and a huge fumble recovery to set up another Brickie TD.
But the tears dripped down nonetheless.
Football isn’t just a game for Babcock. It is family.
“This team, they lift me up every day,” Babcock said. “They are my brothers.”
When Babcock was 8, his mother died, bringing chaos and uncertainty to his daily life. The searing sadness also was shared by his sister Danielle and brother Michael.
Then,when he was living in Chesterton, his best friend was killed in a gang shooting in Chicago.
Can you imagine having two such blows occurring at such a young age? Me either.
Now you understand the tears.
“Every Friday night we prepare for the game,” he said. “I have the best coaches and teammates anyone could ever ask for. It’s all about the heart. We have tremendous heart as a team.”
I’ve been covering Hobart football for 25 years. It’s been a thrill. What a program and what a legacy. Meeting Don Howell for the first time almost took my breath away. Fear turned to friendship after we spent enough time together.
The Hall of Fame coach took the Brickies to 11 state championship games and they won it all four times.
But when I spoke to Howell’s wife, Roz, all those years ago, she never talked about field goals, holding penalties or what the scoreboard said and read. What she was focused on was lives being changed.
She could talk for hours about this kid or another and she spoke about how the football family at Hobart and the culture there helped to lift young men up, kids who were facing difficulties at home or in the neighborhood.
Babcock’s beating heart is an example of this great legacy moving forward.
“I’ve let Bobby know he can call me any time of the week, 24/7,” Hobart coach Craig Osika said. “He can talk to me about anything. I have two daughters so all the kids on this team are my boys. We will be there for Bobby and help him whenever he needs it.
“That’s what Hobart football is all about.”
I’ve been writing about the Brickies’ junior class for about five years. They were making a name for themselves in middle school blowouts. I made comparisons to Lowell’s 2017 state finalist team, a large group of athletes and football players all on the same page.
I will now compare Bobby Babcock with Lowell’s Jordan Jusevitch, now playing at Indiana. They are very similar on the grid iron. A star surrounded by talented teammates.This seems to be the Region way.
Like Lowell, this Hobart team is growing and maturing at the right time. And it starts with Babcock.
“He was not very coachable last year,” Osika said. “I talked to him about it in the offseason. This year Bobby’s been so unselfish. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and that has made him a better player.”
Babcock has two little cousins -- Izabelle and Jack -- who he thinks of and plays for every Friday night. His head is up and he is focused on his future, trying to rise up from his past.
“Not every day is sunshine and rainbows,” Babcock said. “I know that. But this football team, my brothers, they are there for me every day. We are going to stick together.”
So the true legacy of Hobart football continues.
And that is a very good thing.