HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Victor Hobson has a nice jab, an impressive left-right combination and some fancy footwork in the boxing ring.
It's still not enough to fight off the razzing he gets from his New York Jets teammates.
``They've made jokes here and there that I think I'm Little Mike Tyson and stuff like that,'' Hobson said with a big grin. ``It's all in good fun.''
But the linebacker's knockout performance during the team's offseason weekly boxing classes conducted by trainer Teddy Atlas was nothing to joke about.
``Vic is just built that way,'' linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. ``It's in his blood.''
Hobson got into boxing after he was drafted in the second round out of Michigan, and regularly trains in the sport during the offseason.
``A lot of people think it's just going out there and throwing punches and seeing who knocks out who first, but it's a chess match,'' he said.
An avid boxing fan who often shows the team clips of memorable fights before big games, coach Eric Mangini created the classes to help the players perfect their footwork, hand placement and overall conditioning.
``It helped with all of that,'' Hobson said. ``One thing Teddy used to always say is that boxing is a one-on-one sport and you don't have anyone to blame. If you're not prepared, everyone in the world is going to know it was your fault. It helped us mentally, too.''
Hobson, who at 6 feet and 252 pounds would qualify as a boxing heavyweight, had a heavy-duty breakout year for the Jets last season. After three years of not living up to the expectations that come with being a high draft pick, Hobson finished tied for second on the Jets with 100 tackles, along with six sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
``I'm hard on myself,'' Hobson said. ``I always felt the need to get better and I always worked hard at that. I came in in the best shape to show that I belong.''
And then he proved it on the field by excelling in Mangini's 3-4 defense at outside linebacker.
``He did a good job, and I thought that he did a nice job in terms of learning the concept,'' Mangini said.
While Vilma, veteran Eric Barton and others struggled to be playmakers in the 3-4, Hobson thrived - even when things didn't look so promising last summer.
``It was a learning experience,'' he said. ``We had a new coach, he came in and wanted to see what we were about. He tested us mentally and physically and that's hard to go through when you're trying to learn a system, too. I think it was a trying time for all of us.''
A year later, Hobson is as comfortable in the defense as anyone.
``A lot of people say that last year was a breakout season for me,'' he said. ``I just say it was an opportunity for me to get better this year.''
Atlas, listed in the team's media guide as a ``special assistant-boxing,'' came to Hofstra every Monday for about an hour during the spring. Hobson quickly became a teacher's pet.
``Boxing is a tough sport, so it probably helps that I've done it before,'' said Hobson, who counts welterweight Zab Judah among his friends. ``I pretty much knew the basics and with a guy like Teddy, that helped tremendously, just mentally. He's a perfectionist.''
In June, Hobson and right tackle Anthony Clement were invited by Atlas to take part in a taping of his ``Teddy's Fight Plan'' segment on ESPN2's ``Friday Night Fights'' that aired before a bout between Darnell Wilson and Emmanuel Nwodo on Staten Island.
``It was great,'' Hobson said. ``It was something I actually approached him about when we first started. He said he was going to take me up on the offer and when he did, I was happy about it.''
Despite being praised by Atlas and his teammates for his boxing skills, Hobson doesn't plan to pursue a career in the ring after his days in the NFL are over.
``Sparring only,'' Hobson said. ``I get hit in the head way too much playing football. I don't need to do boxing, too.''
That's not to say some of his teammates wouldn't relish a chance to go a few rounds against ``Little Mike.''
``Of course, I'll get in the ring with Vic anytime,'' Vilma said, laughing. ``I've got no problems with that.''

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