Desert Ridge High School senior Koby Hathcock does it all for the Jaguars on the football field.
He rushed for two touchdowns last season as a junior and threw for two more on 13 attempts at quarterback. On defense, the linebacker racked up 43 total tackles, 3.5 of which were for a loss and 2 for sacks.
But while Hathcock has made an impact for his team on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, that wasn’t the reason major division I universities became interested in the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder. It was because of his long-snapping ability.
“It started with our previous long snapper, Adam Bay,” Koby said. “I started doing it for fun because it looked cool, but I happened to be good at it so I started practicing with him. He really encouraged me to become a snapper.”
Koby began training with long snapping guru Ben Bernard, the same coach that trained Bay before he graduated in 2017 and went on to play for the University of Wisconsin.
The Hathcock’s drove 45 minutes each way for training four days a week. The drive was difficult at first for them to accomplish, but it quickly became worth it.
“You realize that this is the best time of his life,” said Jeremy Hathcock, Koby’s dad and the head coach at Desert Ridge. “I had two boys before him that played for me then went on to college. I never really got to enjoy the time we had.
“So whatever it took to spend time with Koby, we were going to do it. It was all worth it in the end.”
Koby received his first offer from Iowa State University on May 13. Less than a month later on June 2, he committed to play for the Cyclones.
“We fell in love with it,” Koby said. “My dad and brother wanted me to commit on the spot but my mom wanted me to wait and really make sure it was what I wanted to do. But she loved it and she knew I did, too.”
There were several factors that led to the Hathcock’s family falling in love with Iowa State, one of which was the thought of Koby playing immediately.
Iowa State’s current long snapper, Steven Wirtel, is one of the best in the country and will likely join his brother, Chicago Bears rookie long snapper John Wirtel, in the NFL next year. Wirtel is the only long snapper on the Cyclones’ roster, paving the way for Koby to take over the moment he steps foot on campus.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell showed genuine care for Koby during his visit, and the Hathcock’s felt his footprint all over the university. They also felt the excitement for Iowa State football from the surrounding community, an aspect that was confirmed by Perry alum and current Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy’s father, Shawn.
“After talking to Shawn, we felt the same thing with football being the center of the community,” Jeremy said. “I told Koby that he should go to a place where his commitment would mean something. We got that there.”
Koby heads into his senior season as the second-ranked long snapper in the country, according to Jamie Kohl, who holds professional camps for kickers, punters and long snappers across the country. He believes his ranking and overall success at the position is a culmination of what his father and mother, Amy, instilled in him and all of his siblings from a young age.
They taught him to always keep pushing and give his all in everything he does, on or off the field. They also taught him to be accountable on his own, a message echoed by his older brothers, Ryan and Alec, who experienced the lifestyle change being a college athlete brings.
“They told me that the coaches expect a lot more from me, and you have to figure out everything on your own,” Koby said. “I know I need to keep my grades up and continue to push for my goals because nobody will be there to hold me accountable.”
Despite his commitment, Koby says he won’t stray away from playing linebacker and running back for Desert Ridge this season. He and his team have unfinished business after a 3-8 record last season, the worst since Hathcock took over the program in 2006.
Desert Ridge snuck into the playoffs as the No. 15 seed, but lost in the opening round to second-ranked Pinnacle High School. Injuries derailed the Jaguars on both sides of the ball early on in the season, forcing several players to play out of position.
This year, however, Desert Ridge returns a battle-tested group on both sides of the ball. Koby vows they will be more physical than last year, and won’t shy away from any competition.
He believes he can focus solely on the season rather than recruitment with his commitment out of the way. Something both he and his dad will enjoy as their time together on the field nears its end.
“It will be tough, he’s my last boy,” the older Hathcock said. “I get a little emotional just thinking about it. (Senior night) is one of those moments that I don’t want to come but when it does, I’ll be glad I went along for the ride.”