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A freak injury forced 28-year-old Ellis Hobbs to retire from the NFL. But a chance discovery may have sparked a potentially lucrative post-football career.
Hobbs, a six-year pro who quietly retired after suffering a second neck injury while with the Philadelphia Eagles, has uncovered a passion for film production.
Hobbs is the chief financier for the upcoming movie "The Last Fall," a gritty drama about -- what else -- football. Hobbs credits his wife, Monique, for discovering the project's director, Matthew Cherry, who bounced around the NFL, Canadian and arena leagues.
"He tried to make this movie on $16,000," said Hobbs, who recently visited ESPN's Bristol campus to discuss the film and football. "The quality he put out, that's what made me look into it."
Cherry isn't trying to give audiences a feel-good story about the glory of professional football. "The Last Fall" documents the journey of a fledging NFL player. The film stars Lance Gross, a rising Hollywood star who appeared in "Our Family Wedding" with Forrest Whittaker, Regina King and Carlos Mencia. Gross also is a cast member on the Tyler Perry sitcom "House of Payne."
"We wanted to take the whole stereotype of athletes and just blow it away," said Hobbs, who is eager to launch other projects through his production company, Outer Stratosphere. "I guarantee if I explain the movie to athletes, so many of them have a similar story. A lot of guys are hurting. They don't know a lot of guys go through what they've gone through."
Hobbs has a minor role in the "Last Fall." He plays a football player who has a tryout with a NFL team and in the scene, he is trying to reassure his wife that everything will be fine. It's a situation that mirrored something that happened to Hobbs in real life. The scene reminded Hobbs of the conversation he had with his wife after he suffered his second neck injury with the Eagles last November.
"It was tough to come out of the moment because I was reliving something I went through," he said.
Even though the former third-round pick has accepted that he'll never play professional football again, it doesn't stop him from obsessing over the "what ifs." For example, what if he had been late to the game and never taken the field that day?
"It hurts," he said. "I still think about it [the injury]. I just force myself to open my eyes because I don't want to see it. It's about the fact that something was taken away from me."
Hobbs said the film will debut early next year and hopes it will be accepted to the Sundance Film Festival.