- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Joey Hobbs placed red Dre Beats over his ears, bobbing his head to rap music while rain pelted the car windows. He wanted to escape.
The 2014 defensive end had just watched combine officials sling a first-place medal around the neck of another defensive lineman, Andrew Brown. He tried to push that feeling out of his mind on the ride home -- until the intro to Lil Wayne's "Kobe Bryant" filled his ears.
I want to be the best. I want to be the best, simple and plain
"I just broke down and started crying," said Hobbs, a two-year starter at Mechanicsburg (Pa.). "I was just thinking about the whole competition, and I just don't like to lose. My mom was just like, 'What's wrong?'
"I never really cried in front of anyone. I normally don't cry. I'm a guy, you know? But that just really hurt."
Hobbs messaged blocks of text to his high school coach. He knew he was no longer the best. He watched Brown pummel offensive linemen with "violent hands," and he just didn't have that ability. Not yet.
He promised himself on that cool, rainy day that he would devote the rest of his high school career to improving on the gridiron. He set his alarm clock early, greeted the neighbors picking up their morning papers and sprinted back and forth along the street.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound prospect began hitting the weight room more than ever. Instead of chatting with friends, he focused on his reps. Every time he grew tired or thought about packing his gym bag and heading home, his mind flashed right back to watching those officials award Brown. And he thought about how he felt on the car ride home.
"When I know I have the ability to do something, and I see somebody else achieve it, it just gets to me," he said. "So I just started working on everything."
College coaches have started taking notice of the new Hobbs. Even at that combine, he earned some write-ups and praise. But he wasn't satisfied.
As both his talent and this season have progressed, recruiting mail and game invitations have also picked up. Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof called Mechanicsburg to inquire about its athletic defensive end, and the Nittany Lions sent him an open invitation to watch a game.
Hobbs often comes home after late nights -- he ate dinner at 9 p.m. Monday -- to a mound of letters from the likes of Rutgers, Pitt, PSU, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Missouri and Iowa. He hasn't yet attained his dream, of grabbing that first scholarship offer, but he feels as if he's close.
He plans to take Roof up on his invitation and wants to see the Indiana or Wisconsin game. He called West Virginia his "dream school," but also proclaimed high interest in PSU.
"It's been a lot going on with that organization with the rebuilding process, and I would want to be a part of that," Hobbs said. "That's a team that's been going through some bad, and I'd like to be a part of the good, a part of the rebuilding process."
He hopes to chat more with nearby PSU commit Adam Breneman about the university. But, even more, he hopes to work harder this offseason and show more coaches he belongs with the Browns of the recruiting world.
And, if he ever thinks about giving up, he knows exactly what song to add to his playlist.