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New Bengals D-Line Coach Always Knew Football Would Be His Life And Not A Hobby

Marion Hobby on the field before a Dolphins game this season.
Marion Hobby on the field before a Dolphins game this season.

This weekend's hiring of Marion Hobby as the Bengals defensive line coach after impressive stints the past four seasons in Jacksonville and Miami turned out to be a pretty straight forward deal.

First, when he reached out to his old Clemson nose tackle D.J. Reader, currently the heart of the Bengals defensive line, and then in his conversations with Bengals president Mike Brown, head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

"Mr. Brown is straight forward. It's really clear what he's looking for in his coaches and what he expects and that's what any coach would want right there," Hobby said Saturday afternoon. "I got a chance to spend some time with Zac and Lou and it was really positive. I got a good feel for those guys and where they're trying to get with the defense. It was really good. And Mr. Brown was outstanding."

Hobby, 54, didn't need any introduction to Reader, whose brilliant first season with the Bengals was cut short by a torn quad in the fifth game. Before Hobby had been his line coach at Clemson, he first got to see Reader when he was a sophomore at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, N.C., and Hobby was coaching at Duke.

"Great kid. A little sophomore. He was probably six-foot tall at that time … he played baseball, too," Hobby recalled. "You didn't see it then, but when I reunited with him at Clemson it was, 'Well, look at here.'"

A few days ago, Hobby, whose own high school coach called him "Coach," because he knew where the kid was headed, was on the phone again with Reader.

"I asked him straight up," Hobby said. "'You know me well. Do you think this is a good fit for me?' He gave me confirmation it was."

So for the second time in a week Taylor got thumbs-up from team leaders that have played for his new assistants. Last week it was running back Joe Mixon and a couple of his offensive linemen praising the return of offensive line coach Frank Pollack. On Saturday it was Reader looking forward to yet another reunion with Hobby.

"Super happy. Super happy," said Reader, on his way to rehab in Houston. "Really, really good guy. Good coach.  He coached me all four years (at Clemson). Kind of crazy. I've known him since I was a young kid.

"Coaches hard. Guys come to work. His family is a priority. A real solid dude. He's a tough coach. He's funny. You have to come to work and go hard, but he's also got some fun to him. He's a very cool dude. He's interesting. I'm a big fan of Hobby."

Hobby also has a former Bengal as a fan. Long-time linebacker Vincent Rey played at Duke, where Hobby became the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach the season Rey signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent.

"He was the D-line coach for two years when I was there," said Rey, who says 'We,' when it comes to the Bengals. "They'll run to the ball, I know that. He's got a high standard. He's a very good coach. He's tough. He's very fair. He treats everyone the same. It makes sense. He's been successful in this league. It's good for our team."

Rey was on the field in 2017 in Jacksonville when Hobby's vaunted front stoned the Bengals on 29 yards rushing and just 148 total yards. That was the year the Jaguars, ranked No. 2 in defense, rang 55 sacks for third most over the last seven seasons on the way to the heart-breaking AFC championship game against the Patriots.

"That was a historic line," Rey said. "One of the best lines I saw when I was in the league."

Then Rey was watching last month when the playoff charging Dolphins held the Bengals to just 40 yards rushing on only 196 yards as 10-win Miami churned to 16th in rushing, 10th in sacks and first in third-down efficiency in the final NFL rankings.

"He's high-energy, he's experienced, he's detailed, he's been exposed to a lot of different schemes and that's good for us," Anarumo said. "He's a really good fit. He's a good teacher and guys have always played hard for him."

The Dolphins play a similar hybrid 3-4 defense that is evolving under Anarumo. Last season Hobby, moving into his seventh season as an NFL coach, showed an ability to develop young players when second-round nose tackle Raekwon Davis emerged as one of the defense's top players and unknown 2018 seventh-round Ravens draft pick Zach Sieler, after coming into the season with 139 career snaps, racked up 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits in more than 500 plays on the edge.

Hobby knows enough about the Bengals personnel to like it after scouting some of them coming out of college and earlier.

"I was familiar with the roster," Hobby said. "D.J. is not only something else as player, but he's a special person. Carl Lawson, who's a guy that played at Auburn but a Georgia guy that (Clemson) recruited really hard. I was familiar with Sam Hubbard coming out of Ohio State. And everyone knows Geno (Atkins). He's been a mainstay in the National Football League for a long time."

Hobby, a captain of Tennessee's SEC champions, played three seasons on an NFL line at the beginning of the '90s in New England before embarking on a coaching run he knew he was going to take when he was a sophomore in high school in Irondale, Ala., and his coach called him, "Coach."

 "I was a headache for my coaches because I was always asking, 'Why?'" Hobby said.

He worked his way from the ground up (starting with the defensive tackles at Tennessee-Martin, then two seasons at Southwest Louisiana as strength and conditioning coach) and has 26 years in the profession in the college and the pros. But he says, "I change my shoes," after the season when he tries to find time for sneakers.

Camille Hobby, Florida's Miss Basketball in 2019, is a sophomore center for third-ranked North Carolina State. Her dad has already noted that Raleigh isn't all that far (eight-hour drive) from Cincinnati.

"Then I'm a basketball guy," Hobby said. "They've had a few games cancelled, but I think they'll start playing again soon. We'll be working, but hopefully I'll be able to get to some games, too."