Backup pivot never meant to stir up fans

RODNEY WILSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

"HO-BART, Ho-bart! That was a familiar chant at Lansdowne Park.

When starting quarterback Damon Allen struggled, Southsiders would call for backup Ken Hobart, who was often warming up on the sidelines.

The way Allen and GM Jo-Anne Polak saw it, Hobart was trying to stir up the fans.

"Obviously, Damon and Jo-Anne and the people in the organization didn't know me as a person," said Hobart from his home in Lewiston, Idaho, where he sells billboard advertising.

"They knew me the football player, but I never intentionally stirred anybody up."

The quarterback joined the Rough Riders late in the 1989 season when they lost Allen and backup Tony Kimbrough to injuries.

"That team hadn't had back-to-back wins in four or five years," said Hobart. "We ended up winning the last two games of the season vs. Winnipeg and the fans went crazy."

After the final game of the season, coach Steve Goldman had a chat with Hobart.

"Steve told me he had no intentions of bringing me back but by us winning two games in a row, he was going to be forced to bring me back."

The following season saw a divided Ottawa locker room.

"Some of the players thought I should be playing, some thought he should be playing," said Hobart, now 43. "The people in that town didn't care who the quarterback was, they just wanted to win."

RELEASED

Hobart returned as Allen's backup in 1990 but his departure from Ottawa was inevitable. That season, Hobart was released.

"I didn't get cut for poor performance," said Hobart. "I got cut for playing too well and causing that dissension.

"Steve Goldman told me, looking me straight in the eye, that he never imagined I would play as well as I played when I got the chance."

For Hobart, it was not only the end of his pro career, it turned him away from the sport altogether.

"I thought, 'God, as a backup quarterback, you're supposed to play good, you're supposed to help your team win,' " said Hobart, who felt he needed to get away from the game for a couple of years.

Still, he has no hard feelings toward Allen.

"I respect Damon, he's a great athlete," said Hobart, who was pleased to see the quarterback win the Grey Cup and game MVP last month at Frank Clair Stadium. "I thought it was really neat; I admire a guy that has played as long as he has."

Nowadays, Hobart is focused on his career after football.

"I sell advertising for a company called Lamar Outdoor," he said. "I've worked for them for nine years."

Hobart also works with his wife Valerie, who is a realtor.

"I also have a real estate licence and I help my wife in my spare time," he said. "I love what I do."

The couple has three children -- 14-year-old son Zane, and daughters Klaree (eight) and TaLaynia (seven).

"We're on the go," said Hobart. "In the summer time, we're at the ballpark six nights a week."

And Zane is quite the quarterback, according to his father.

And the elder Hobart said he would never discourage his son from being a pro football player.

"He's a good little athlete, really smart," Hobart said.

"I had that same dream as a child. I think being at the right place at the right time is huge."

REGRETS NFL DECISION

Looking back, Hobart says he enjoyed the CFL game, but regrets not taking a shot at the NFL.

In 1985, Hobart joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats rather than become a second- or third-string quarterback in the NFL.

"That's the only regret I may have looking back," said Hobart. "I was a young guy coming out of college. I had my pride and my ego and I wanted to play."

Hobart took the Tiger-Cats to the Grey Cup in 1985 and the following season, as a backup to Mike Kerrigan, Hamilton defeated Edmonton in Vancouver in the championship game.

Playing in the Grey Cup was a huge thrill for Hobart.

"In the Grey Cup game, I remember we were ahead 39-15 and I went in for a series or two," said Hobart.

"It's a Canadian tradition and it was kind of a neat deal to be involved in that."


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