Paytton Hobbs is living his dream.
When he was taking a class taught by Marybeth Lennox-Levins at Castleton University, she asked him what he would like to do after graduation. His answer was be an athletic director.
He took a second class from Lennox-Levins and was asked the question again. The answer had changed by then.
“I said that I really loved football and wanted to be close to the game and that I wanted to be a defensive coordinator,” he said. “Now, I have done that at 27 years old.”
Hobbs is living his dream in Aberdeen, South Dakota, a community of about 26,000 people roughly 125 miles from the capital city of Pierre. It is there that he is the defensive coordinator for the Presentation College football team.
Presentation is an NAIA school so, unlike Castleton, its spring practice is full contact. They have 15 sessions in full pads and the Spring Game is Saturday.
Hobbs came to Castleton in 2010 from Middlebury Union High School. It was the second year of the CU football program and he played linebacker for coach Rich Alercio and then for Marc Klatt. He did not play his senior year, already putting himself on his career track as a student on the CU coaching staff.
Shortly after graduating from Castleton in 2014, he became a graduate assistant on the coaching staff at Ottawa University in Kansas.
After picking up his MBA degree at Ottawa, he heard about the opening at Presentation and headed north for an interview.
“I crushed it,” Hobbs said.
He began as the special teams coach and in February 2018, that dream that might have seemed so far away that day in Lennox-Levins’ class became a reality — Hobbs was named the Saints’ defensive coordinator.
Legendary coach Peter Brakeley infused Hobbs with a love of football at Middlebury.
“Coach Brakeley taught me that football was meant to be fun,” Hobbs said.
He played varsity football at MUHS for Dennis Smith. He said Smith taught him about player-coach relationships, lessons he applies each day at Presentation.
“Coach Smith’s approach was to trust his players. I am always saying to my players, ‘I am trusting you to get this done, Bud,’” Hobbs said.
He also values his time learning from Bo McDougal and Adam Chicoine, assistants on the Castleton staff at the time.
“They were great. They taught me that it is OK to step away from football and have some fun,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs’ recruiting area is Rapid City, South Dakota, and Colorado. Following the season, he will help prepare the dome over the practice field for the winter and then head to Colorado for seven or eight days.
South Dakota might seem like a world away from Middlebury and Castleton, but at other times he discovers just how small the world of college football can be.
When The Saints played Jamestown of North Dakota, he wound up coaching against former Castleton offensive coordinator Jason Challeen on the Jamestown staff.
The Saints also play against Valley City State of North Dakota, where Otter Valley Union High School graduate Trevor Peduto is a defensive lineman.
Hobbs isn’t averse to using his Vermont connections in recruiting, and recently sent an email to a Vermont quarterback.
“It’s tricky. You have to remember how many schools are between here and there. It has to be just the right fit,” Hobbs said.
Castleton is a special place to Hobbs — so special that he and his high school sweetheart Brittany were married down on the field in Spartan Stadium.
“We were the first to be married on the field,” Hobbs said.
They are expecting their first child just about the time fall camp opens.
But Aberdeen, a college town that also includes Division II Northern State University, is very much home for the Hobbs family.
“It is a lot like New England. It’s a nice community and the people are very nice,” Hobbs said.
Sounds like a dream.