Road to 1991 Perfection: Hobert's Starting Debut? No Problem
Billy Joe Hobert passed the test.
As the University of Washington starting quarterback for the 1991 season opener at Stanford, he wasn't everyone's first choice.
The injured Mark Brunell was sensational the year before, but he wouldn't be medically cleared to play again for another couple of weeks. Newspaper headlines constantly reminded everyone of Brunell's progress.
Hobert couldn't have been faulted for feeling unwanted. Some of his UW teammates were skeptical of him running the huddle and let him know it in subtle fashion.
Even Husky offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson expressed his frustration with Hobert in practice at times.
"There was a lot of doubt in everybody's mind, I'm sure, including the coaches," Hobert said. "Gilbertson, one day at practice, said, 'If I had anybody else I could put in there, I would.' I said thank you very much."
Hobert was more than up for the challenge at Stanford. He was the right guy. He looked good.
The sophomore quarterback put the fourth-ranked Huskies on the scoreboard early and often, leading them to a 42-7 victory in Palo Alto.
Hobert was overly impressive in his starting debut, completing 21 of 31 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
One of them went to one of the guys who had stood in his corner all along, wide receiver Joe Kralik. He caught a 20-yard scoring toss cutting over the middle in the fourth quarter.
Kralik and Hobert grew up together in Puyallup. They played football and baseball against each other. They became football teammates at Puyallup High and at the UW. They were even in NFL training together with the Oakland Raiders.
"Being able to throw a touchdown pass to my high school buddy, that was a big deal for me," Hobert said.
Today, Kralik lives in Austin, Texas, and is a branch manager for a mortgage company after spending a number of years in that city as a firefighter.
The Huskies, with their new quarterback locked in, looked absolutely fearsome in the opener. They were brutal on defense.
All-American defensive tackle Steve Emtman deflected a pass and then caught it himself for an interception.
Reserve safety Paxton Tailele knocked Stanford quarterback Jason Palumbis out of the game with a knee injury.
The Emtman-led defense held the Cardinal to a measly 28 yards net rushing.
"We got a lot to clean up," Husky coach Don James, "but I liked the physical performance."
More player memories of the Stanford game will come in vignettes over the next few days. Then it's time to go to Nebraska.
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