Johnnies' Defensive Lineman, Team Pay Veterans Day Tribute to Fallen Soldier

Johnnies' Defensive Lineman, Team Pay Veterans Day Tribute to Fallen Soldier Photo: KSTP/Frank Rajkowski

November 15, 2017 06:08 PM

Mat Hobby never met 1st Lt. Weston Cecil Lee.

But the St. John's senior defensive lineman is familiar with the trail he traveled. And he's well aware of the sacrifice he made.


The 25-year-old Lee – a member of the 82nd Airborne – was killed while on patrol in Mosul, Iraq this past April.

Hobby – who is in his fourth year of Army ROTC in Collegeville – has a cousin deployed to Afghanistan. And he'd like to end up in the 82nd Airborne himself after he graduates in May.

He followed Lee on social media. And with the Johnnies facing Concordia Saturday in a key MIAC showdown that happened to fall on Veterans Day, he wanted to do something to honor Lee's memory.

So he and the rest of his teammates wore stickers on the back of their helmets bearing Lee's name.

"The sacrifice he made reminds you there are things bigger than this," said Hobby, who had five tackles and one-and-a-half sacks as his team downed the Cobbers 10-3, making it very likely the Johnnies (9-1) will earn one of five at-large bids available when the 32-team Division III football playoff field is announced late Sunday afternoon.

"There are things bigger than the Johnnies-Tommies game, or whether we make the playoffs. Men are still going off to fight, and giving their lives so we have the freedom to play a game like this."

All told, Hobby ordered 155 stickers. He contacted one of Lee's best friends to secure his blessing. And he went to St. John's head coach Gary Fasching to get permission to pay tribute.

"That's just the kind of guy Mat is," Fasching said.

"And for us, wearing a sticker on the back of our helmets is just a small way of saying thanks for all the sacrifices our veterans have made for us."

Hobby also addressed his team Friday after practice, letting them know who they were honoring and why.

Then he and the Johnnies defense went out and turned in a big performance Saturday in Collegeville, recording three sacks, three turnovers and holding Cobbers senior Chad Johnson – the MIAC's leading rusher – to just 29 yards on the ground.

"They're a great team and we knew we'd be trading punches with them all game long," Hobby said. "I told our guys before the game – we had to be ready for a fist-fight in a phone booth. And we all went out and did our jobs."

Hobby finds out exactly what his job in the military will be post-graduation this Thursday. Then, come Saturday, there will likely be a first-round playoff game to focus on.

And the Temecula, California native has his sights set high.

"We want to win a national championship," said Hobby, whose team is ranked No. 6 nationally in Division III and has only lost once – to No. 4-ranked St. Thomas – all season.

"If we didn't all believe we were capable of that, we wouldn't bother showing up and putting in the hard work we do in practice. We know we have to focus on the next game in front of us. But we believe we have the talent to go all the way."



Frank Rajkowski

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