BYU football: named after a baseball player, but Hobbs Nyberg thrives on the grill

When your family loves baseball so much that they name you a fictional character from the beloved movie “The Natural”, quitting the sport for football is not easy.

In fact, it might be more difficult than hitting a fastball at 90 miles per hour.

But that’s exactly what BYU receiver walk-on and kickback Hobbs Nyberg – named after the fictional Roy Hobbs – made, after arriving at BYU in 2019 on a baseball scholarship.

When the soccer team releases its 2021 depth chart on Monday to kick off game week against Arizona (September 4, Las Vegas), Nyberg will likely not be among the top 4-6 receivers, but he has performed so well. in the recently completed preseason training camp offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said he “is in the mix”.

Nyberg will almost certainly be listed as the leading punt returner, having returned to work in the middle of last season – his first in the program – and returned 10 punts for 58 yards.

“He turns out to be a good offensive player. Last year I didn’t even know who the guy was, and all of a sudden he was in a game to catch a punt. And literally, he became our full-time punt returner and did a good job, ”Roderick said after last Saturday’s scrum.

“And then this spring he started to prove to us that he could play catcher, and then he had a good scrum today. … I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw him play in games this year on top of being our punt returner.

How did it happen?

Nyberg’s father, Brent, was a catcher for BYU in 1989 and 1990 and his brother, Chunner, pitched for the Cougars from 2010 to 2014. Growing up in St. George, where Brent Nyberg is a real estate agent and owns a design center indoor, Hobbs played in football and baseball for Dixie High.

“I liked both sports, but I just had a really good (partial scholarship) offer for BYU baseball, so I couldn’t pass it up,” he said.

An outfielder, Nyberg appeared in 24 games in his first season (2019) and 10 in his second season before COVID-19 cut this season short. He had a batting average of 0.219 in his first season and hit 0.227 with a triple and two doubles in 2020 before the pandemic put an end to it all.

After attending soccer games in his freshman year, Nyberg says he often found himself in the bleachers of LaVell Edwards Stadium, wishing he could play soccer again.

“I didn’t like baseball as much as I thought I would like it, just being here in Provo,” he said. “I loved the baseball team and the coaches, but my love for the sport was gone.”

He spoke about it with his family and “knew that I would only get one chance to play college sports, so I just decided to make the football team, and that’s where I was.” am, ”he said.

Nyberg said BYU baseball coaches “seemed a little surprised” when he told them he was moving on, mainly because he had never mentioned the possibility to them before.

Coach Mike Littlewood “took it well,” Nyberg said.

“He was really supportive and understanding and said if that was where my heart was, then he was going to support it,” Nyberg said. “He wished me the best and said he would help me in any way he could.”

Nyberg contacted the football coaches, and they told him they knew about his high school football prowess and invited him to walk. Nyberg scored 52 touchdowns during his preparation career as a receiver and running back. He was the Region 9 MVP in 2017.

On BYU Football Media Day in June, wide receivers Gunner Romney and Neil Pau’u said Nyberg was a player to watch in 2021. And then the scrimmage took place. Nyberg doesn’t know his exact stats, but admits he caught a TD pass from new starting quarterback Jaren Hall.

Hobbs Nyberg dons his BYU baseball gear before changing sporting allegiance.
Photo by BYU

“Yeah, it was super fun,” he said. “I was happy to have been able to enter the end zone. “

Of course, games are very different from scrums, and Nyberg will have a hard time seeing the pitch as a receiver with the aforementioned veterans and the Nacua brothers – Samson and Puka – also in the receiving room.

BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar also played for Dixie High and was a childhood friend of Nyberg. Wilgar was also once out for a walk, so he eased the transition.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Nyberg said.

As for his unique first name, that doesn’t change just because he plays a different sport, said Nyberg, adding that “my parents think it’s a cool name and love it too much.”

So that’s Hobbs Nyberg – No.23 on the Cougars football roster.

Special teams coach Ed Lamb said he was a great find as a punt returner.

“I was very grateful for the opportunity that the football coaches even gave me to be part of the team,” said Nyberg. “I try to have as much fun as possible, work my best and have a fun football career. In the end, I made some great friends and have a football fraternity that will last forever. But right now I’m just living a dream. I just feel blessed to be on the team.

And there is nothing fictitious about it.


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