THE RUN­NING MAN

There’s a new star south of bor­der ... and he may look fa­mil­iar:

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES

Ed­mon­ton’s Chuba Hub­bard is on pace to chal­lenge the leg­endary Barry San­ders’ col­lege rush­ing records af­ter emerg­ing as a top Heis­man con­tender. But if you think any of this is go­ing to the kid’s head, think again. He says he just feels ‘blessed to be in this po­si­tion’

To this point, per­haps, Chuba Hub­bard has come across a lit­tle too pro­grammed and a lit­tle too re­hearsed in his lim­ited media avail­abil­i­ties at Ok­la­homa State. But not on Thurs­day.

The 20-year-old Sher­wood Park prod­uct has not only earned the trust of his coaches and team­mates, he ap­par­ently earned the trust of his sports in­for­ma­tion di­rec­tor and, sud­denly, the well-pro­tected emerg­ing su­per­star of U.S. col­lege foot­ball was un­veiled to an au­di­ence out­side his con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.

Due to “a high vol­ume of media re­quests,” Ok­la­homa State held a tele­con­fer­ence on Thurs­day “pri­mar­ily for media based in Canada” for the lead­ing rusher in the na­tion and the player who has put him­self in the Heis­man Tro­phy con­ver­sa­tion.

Hub­bard still came across as se­ri­ous and less-than-flam­boy­ant, but at the same time, a per­son­al­ity was re­vealed and his char­ac­ter and sub­stance came through.

With 1,094 rush­ing yards and 13 touch­downs, Hub­bard is not only lead­ing the na­tion in rush­ing, he has been threat­en­ing the all-time school records of the leg­endary Barry San­ders at OSU. He’s run for 268 more yards than the sec­ond-place J.K. Dob­bins of Ohio State.

“This has been pretty crazy and kind of life-chang­ing,” Hub­bard said, open­ing up right from the be­gin­ning.

“To come from Canada, ob­vi­ously, this is hard to do. I feel blessed to be in this po­si­tion I’m in.”

You def­i­nitely get the idea he’s not blind to how he’s be­com­ing a house­hold name back home in Ed­mon­ton. This is, af­ter all, the man started and starred in his first game against the ri­val U Ok­la­homa Soon­ers up the road in Nor­man last fall and then led Ok­la­homa State to vic­tory in the Lib­erty Bowl.

Asked about his Bev Facey high school coach Cur­tis Martin say­ing that kids in mi­nor foot­ball in Sher­wood Park are grow­ing up sud­denly want­ing to be Chuba Hub­bard and wear No. 30, he said that’s some­thing to hear.

“It makes me smile to know that I’m able to do that. Grow­ing up as a kid, I al­ways wanted to be a great foot­ball player and a great track ath­lete. And I wanted to bring ex­po­sure to Canada for young kids who wanted to ac­com­plish things whether it is foot­ball, hockey or what­ever to show that any­one could do it. So that’s great to hear and I’m grate­ful for it.

“I al­ways say that Canada is the great­est coun­try in the world. I want to make them proud back home and rep­re­sent that Cana­dian flag strong and show that Cana­di­ans can do great things. I feel like I’m def­i­nitely rid­ing for our coun­try,” said the Cow­boys run­ning back.

“I def­i­nitely had some CFL he­roes like Adar­ius Bow­man of the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos and all those guys. I al­ways went to Eski­mos games. But I also watched a lot of col­lege foot­ball and NFL. I re­ally watched it all.”

Last year, as a fresh­man,

Hub­bard had 740 yards rush­ing and seven touch­downs be­fore burst­ing into na­tional promi­nence on New Year’s Eve in Mem­phis, when he rushed for 145 yards and a touch­down to lead OSU to a 38-33 win over Mis­souri in the Lib­erty Bowl.

“In those two games last year, to be able to play in big games like that re­ally helped my con­fi­dence. To be in that at­mos­phere and that en­vi­ron­ment, it def­i­nitely helped me for this year.”

That said, he wasn’t go­ing to take any bows.

“I al­ways set my goals high and ex­pect the most out of my­self. What I’m do­ing right now is kind of a re­flec­tion of the whole team.”

Hub­bard, com­ing out of 12-man, three-down, 110yard foot­ball in Canada, de­cided to “red-shirt” in his first year at OSU and he now looks back on that as the move that set up his cur­rent suc­cess.

“I think my red-shirt year helped me out a lot,” he said of the year spent as a mem­ber of the team other than on game days.

“Ob­vi­ously, phys­i­cally, it helped me out. But also, men­tally, I think it helped. I got to take some times and work on the field and also off the field,” said the player who added 27 pounds from his Grade 12 year at Bev Facey.

An­other de­ci­sion he made was to call a time­out on his track-and-field ca­reer. He was al­ready a world-class sprinter who had rep­re­sented Canada in­ter­na­tion­ally and was pro­jected to be headed to the re­cently com­pleted world cham­pi­onships and the com­ing Tokyo Olympics.

“I de­cided to take a break from track. We’ll see what hap­pens next year. Ob­vi­ously, I’m happy with where I’m at right now and I feel like I made the right de­ci­sion as of right now. But I don’t want to say I’m com­pletely done with track. I love both the sports.”

This year, Hub­bard re­turned to Still­wa­ter and ran for 296 yards ver­sus Kansas State, 121 against Texas and 256 against Tulsa, and would have had a much larger to­tal had he not been re­stricted to eight car­ries for 44 yards in a 56-14 win over Mcneese State, the free space on their bingo card.

Last week­end, with 156 yards rush­ing and three touch­downs in a con­fer­ence game at Texas Tech, Hub­bard be­came the fastest Ok­la­homa State run­ning back to reach 1,000 yards in a sea­son since San­ders. Hub­bard did in six games. San­ders did it in five.

Ok­la­homa State has a bye this week­end at the half­way mark of their sched­ule. They finish up with Bay­lor, Iowa State, Texas Chris­tian, Kansas, West Vir­ginia and with the ri­valry game at home against the Soon­ers.

Asked about a de­gree of dif­fi­culty in­volved in the re­main­ing sched­ule or a fo­cus of de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors on shut­ting him down, Hub­bard said he’s not con­cerned.

“I just go play foot­ball. Ev­ery week we play great teams and, no mat­ter what, de­fences are go­ing to try and stop you. I’m just look­ing for­ward to each and ev­ery game.

“I’m just try­ing to con­cen­trate on play­ing foot­ball and winning games. We have great guys around here to help me set up a con­fer­ence call like this right now and do a great job to make sure I’m not over­whelmed by any­thing,” he said.

“I don’t want to fo­cus on that other stuff. I just feel blessed to be in that po­si­tion.”

He also says he doesn’t feel any wear and tear de­spite car­ry­ing the ball 128 times in the last four games.

“I feel good. Ob­vi­ously, the bye week feels great. But this is what I’ve been work­ing for all year. I’ve been wait­ing for this op­por­tu­nity. No mat­ter what my role is, whether it’s five car­ries, 20 or 40, I make sure I do my best with it. My body has held up well.”

Hub­bard is look­ing to keep it rolling right through that Cow­boy-soon­ers game at the end of Novem­ber.

He’s al­ready been in­formed that he will have a lot of peo­ple headed down from Ed­mon­ton.

“Yeah, def­i­nitely. It’s al­ways good to see friends and fam­ily. I’ve got a lot of peo­ple com­ing. It’ll be over 10. I’m not sure how I’m go­ing to man­age it, but it will be fun. I’d be in trou­ble if I had to buy all the tick­ets.”

When they all show up, he wants them to see that what’s hap­pen­ing to him this year hasn’t changed him a bit.

“My mom texts me prob­a­bly ev­ery 20 min­utes. She’s al­ways wor­ry­ing about me. Since I was young, my par­ents al­ways told me to be hum­ble,” he said of Candice and Lester.

“That’s one thing they hold me to and that I try to hold my­self to. I’m just like every­body else. I just play foot­ball. That’s the only dif­fer­ence.”

GETTY Images, POSTMEDIA file

Ok­la­homa State Cow­boys run­ning back Chuba Hub­bard (cen­tre) scores a touch­down against the Texas Tech Red Raiders last week at Jones AT&T Sta­dium in Lub­bock, Texas. In­set: Hub­bard coasts to vic­tory in the men’s 100 me­tres for his high school, Bev Facey, in 2017. The Heis­man Tro­phy can­di­date says he will have to forgo his track ca­reer for now.

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