COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Linebacker Joe Lobendahn put the hurt on USC running back LenDale White during the Huskies' game against the Trojans this past season.
Linebacker Joe Lobendahn grew to become the Huskies' most inspirational player
JOE LOBENDAHN achieved many of his goals during five years on the Washington football team.
The most important one was earning his undergraduate degree with a major in American ethnic studies and a minor in communications.
"I've always had goals. My parents (Litia and Richard) always told me that school comes first, that you get your degree," Lobendahn said. "I came in and took care of business."
UW's 2005 most inspirational player now is free to focus on pursuing another goal since his academic responsibilities are successfully finished.
"My dream is to play in the NFL and I'm going to chase that dream," Lobendahn said.
Chris Tormey, UW's linebacker coach, thinks Lobendahn has the tools to play at the next level.
"Joe has quickness, explosiveness and the natural ability to drive through a tackle," Tormey said. "He has tremendous work ethic. Joe doesn't say a lot. He lets his play speak for itself. When he does speak, people listen."
Lobendahn's first step is to recover from ACL surgery on his right knee, which will prevent him from playing in the Hula Bowl on Jan. 21. The injury occurred in Washington's Nov. 11 game against Oregon State. His immediate goal is to be ready for the NFL Combine next month in Indianapolis.
Rehabbing from an injury is nothing new for the Saint Louis graduate.
In the third game of his junior year against Indiana he suffered an ACL injury to the same knee and was granted a medical redshirt year by the NCAA.
Last year he broke his right wrist in the California game.
"IT WAS THE SECOND to last game. It was a blitz play and the Cal quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) scrambled," Lobendahn said. "I came in from behind and as we went down his legs scissored and kicked my hand."
Despite missing the season finale, 2004 was his best year up to that point. The 5-foot-10, 230-pound inside linebacker started 10 games and was second on the team with 100 tackles, evenly split between solo and assisted. Thirteen of those stops were for a loss and he had three sacks.
"I was happy with the way I played that year coming off the ACL injury," Lobendahn said.
He was named the Huskies co-defensive player of the year, was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection and was recipient of the Chuck Niemi Big Hit Award. Lobendahn also was the only junior captain.
After being on three Hawaii state championship teams with the Saint Louis Crusaders, Lobendahn selected Washington over Wisconsin and Hawaii, canceling his remaining recruiting trips after his visit to the Seattle campus.
"I liked the Washington coaches and I felt here was a chance I could step in and play as a true freshman," Lobendahn said. "I also have a lot of family, aunts, uncles and cousins in Washington."
Although he thought he could step right in and play as a freshman, Lobendahn said he was wrong, that the coaches knew better. He played mostly on special teams in 12 games.
"I wanted to make a name for myself. I wanted people to know who I was," said Lobendahn. "Whatever opportunity you have, you have to seize the moment. It tells you whether you are going to play or not."
Lobendahn went into his first spring practice with the goals of becoming stronger and bigger and knowing the defense better. He improved and beat out the player ahead of him on the depth chart to earn the starting job in the opener against Michigan as a sophomore.
COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
University of Washington linebackers coach Chris Tormey thinks Saint Louis alumnus Joe Lobendahn (with football) has what it takes to play in the NFL.
"On the first play of the game I wasn't where I was supposed to be and the (Michigan) guy cut back and went for a TD," Lobendahn said. "Coach took me out and I didn't play much after that.
"I told myself that this wasn't going to happen again, that I wasn't going to make any more mistakes like that."
His third year was cut short after three games with his first ACL.
He followed up his redshirt junior year in 2004 by serving as a captain again this past fall. In nine games before suffering his second ACL, Lobendahn had 76 tackles and two interceptions.
Lobendahn took top honors at the Husky awards banquet when he was named winner of the Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational Award. This award is named after the first winner in 1908 and is Washington's oldest and most prestigious individual award.
He was named the team's MVP on defense for the second consecutive season and was named to the All-Pacific-10 Conference second team.
"Joe is one of the best persons I've ever been associated with," Tormey said. "I would love to find another Joe Lobendahn."
"I have no regrets. I wouldn't exchange this experience for anything," said Lobendahn, who says he would probably like to stay in the game as a coach once his playing days are over.
"The first two years I was here we went to a bowl game and that was a lot of fun. That didn't continue on, but I've accomplished a lot of goals."
If football is not part of his life down the road, Lobendahn has another option.
"I've always wanted to be a firefighter," he said. "I'm am active type guy. I just want to be out there doing something."
THERE WERE SIX other Hawaii players with UW this year.
Mark Palaita, a 5-foot, 240-pound fullback, played for Waipahu before transferring to Seattle's Kennedy High School as a senior. He carried the ball three times for four yards and one touchdown in 11 games.
Donny Mateaki (Iolani '02), a 6-5, 285-pound defensive end, started 10 of 11 games. The junior was in on 21 tackles, 12 solo, with three being sacks for a loss of 21 yards.
Brandon Ala (Kamehameha '02), a 6-3, 245-pound junior defensive endtackle, played in four games and had four tackles, two of them solo.
Wilson Afoa, a sophomore nose tackle from Saint Louis, had 24 solo tackles and nine assisted stops in 11 games. He had 7 1/2 tackles for a loss, including a sack.
William Kava (Iolani '01), a 6-3, 275-pound sophomore offensive guard who returned from a church mission this year, did not see any playing time.
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (Hawaii Prep '05), a 6-4, 235-pound freshman defensive lineman, redshirted.