AMES, Iowa -- Just shy of his 26th birthday, Ellis Hobbs has achieved big dreams.
The former Cyclone cornerback was named Iowa State football's most valuable player in 2004. He helped lead the Cyclones to a victory in the 2005 Independence Bowl. He was drafted by the NFL's New England Patriots. And last year, Hobbs became the 11th Cyclone to play in a Super Bowl.
Hobbs in the Independence Bowl, 2005
He is famous. He has a loving family. And he makes $2.5 million a year. What more could he want?
A degree from Iowa State.
On May 9, Hobbs -- who was just traded to the Philadelphia Eagles -- will proudly walk across the stage at Hilton Coliseum to accept a B.A. in Art and Design, four years after he left Iowa State. His family will all be there, waiting to hear "Ellis Hue Hobbs III" and watching their college graduate collect his diploma. He will be the first of his siblings to do so.
"You still feel like a son and want to make your parents proud," Hobbs said. He promised his mother, Nettie, that he'd complete his education. And he says he wanted to set an example for his own children -- stepson Evan, 8; and Ellis IV, 3 months.
"I want them to know that regardless of what you start, you need to finish."
Does anybody have a tissue?
Somebody at Hilton had better stock up on Kleenex.
"I know I'm the type of mom that's going to cry a lot," Nettie Hobbs said. "(Ellis) having a degree in a major that he chose is nothing but a plus in his column. At least he has that degree to go behind his resume. Anything can take him away from football, but now he can say, 'I have a degree from Iowa State University.' And I can say, 'My son graduated from Iowa State University.' And be proud of it. It's just wonderful."
Nettie Hobbs says she has experienced many proud moments in her son's life, but she is perhaps most proud of his academic success -- not just now, but in high school.
"He was ranked No. 21 in his high school class of -- if I'm not mistaken -- over 500 students. And to see his name come up when they always talk about academics, I just thank God for that. And once he told me about graduating from college, well -- he and I discussed that. He made a promise. He didn't exactly tell me when, and I didn't exactly put any pressure on him to do it," she said.
Even if she had, Ellis Hobbs is no stranger to pressure. On the football field, he's widely regarded as a diligent worker with heart. Not a big guy, but a guy who gets the job done. School has been no different. Not finishing never entered his mind, he said. It was always part of the game plan.
"I take it one day at a time. I've always just been naturally organized. That coolness, that laid-back feeling . . .well, I've been criticized for that sometimes, but you keep steady at it, and you get things done."
And get things done, he has. Hobbs, who left Iowa State seven credits short of his bachelor's degree, completed his education with a speech class at a junior college and an internship at Kraft Sports Productions, owned by New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. During the off-season, Hobbs said, it became a routine. He'd work out, shower, walk down the long tunnel in the stadium complex to the studio, and get to work. His internship projects included special effects animation -- creating scenes with real people and animated characters.
How does the NFL veteran, who toyed with the idea of being a Disney animator, plan to use his degree?
"You never know, man," Hobbs said. "Hopefully I can use it in the sense that I want to use it. If I'm starting a business someday, maybe I can do my own advertising and logos. Whatever it is, I can make sure it's what I want to do. So now I can make that choice.
"I'm relieved I did it. I didn't have to. I chose to."
And, Hobbs says, he's excited to come back to Iowa State for commencement weekend.
"I loved it dearly for the experiences, for the people. I've never seen people embrace you with love as much as they did when I was in college," he said. "They just opened up their arms. I'm proud to be a Cyclone. They gave me a chance when nobody else would."
"When Iowa State gave him a chance, that made the NFL give him a chance," Nettie Hobbs said. "We just thank everybody who had a part in that."