Hard work pays off for Browns’ Chubb

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NFL - By Tom Withers

CLEVE­LAND — The chant be­gan al­most as a plead­ing cry and has grown into some­thing of a com­mand­ment dur­ing Browns home games this sea­son.

It goes, “Chubb! Chubb! Chubb!” It slowly builds and reaches a crescendo when­ever the Browns of­fense faces a piv­otal sit­u­a­tion or needs a big play. Be­fore the ball is snapped, Browns fans make it clear to first-year coach Fred­die Kitchens, who’s also han­dling play-call­ing du­ties, by scream­ing what they want him to do with the ball.

Give it to Nick Chubb.

“Yeah, I hear it,” the unas­sum­ing run­ning back said, flash­ing an easy smile. “It gets me hyped. It gets me ex­cited.”

It gets him yardage and no back in the NFL has gained more this sea­son than Chubb, the hard-work­ing, sec­ond-year back from Ge­or­gia who heads into Sun­day’s game against the Car­di­nals with 1,281 yards — 38 more than the Titans’ Der­rick Henry and 61 more than the Pan­thers’ Chris­tian McCaf­frey.

If he can hold off those two and fin­ish the sea­son on top, Chubb will be the first Browns player to lead the NFL in rush­ing since 1968, when Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly gained 1,239 yards in 14 games.

True to his nose-down, no-frills style, Chubb, who fin­ished with 996 yards last sea­son, said win­ning the rush­ing ti­tle belt wouldn’t be any­thing spe­cial. To Chubb, it would rep­re­sent the sweat and blood he’s put into his craft dur­ing gru­el­ing, year-round weight-room work­outs.

“It will mean a lot to me only be­cause how hard I worked and it paid off for me,” he said this week as the Browns (6-7) pre­pared to play the Car­di­nals (3-9-1). “That’s re­ally the big­gest thing for me is just when I work hard, it shows and I get the re­sults that I want.”

Hard work. They should stitch that onto the back of Chubb’s brown jersey, along with a blue col­lar.

Since the day he ar­rived in Cleve­land, the sec­ond-round pick has im­pressed coaches and team­mates with his re­lent­less drive and a self­less­ness that seems out of place in a sport where in­di­vid­ual suc­cess is cel­e­brated.

Chubb doesn’t just shun the spot­light. He hides from it.

Dur­ing a game this sea­son against the Dol­phins, Chubb wore a mi­cro­phone for NFL films, which cap­tured a mo­ment that de­scribes him per­fectly.

As he sat on the side­line af­ter a touch­down run, Chubb was ap­proached by star wide re­ceiver Odell Beck­ham Jr., who said to his team­mate, “I wanna score a touch­down.”

Not miss­ing a beat, Chubb replied, “I wanna win.”

That’s Chubb in a nut­shell. A very hard nut­shell.

Chubb’s guarded, al­most de­fi­ant at­ti­tude could be off-putting to those who don’t know him. But Browns left guard Joel Bi­to­nio said that while Chubb may be on the brink of star­dom, he re­mains the same hum­ble 23-year-old who isn’t wor­ried about any stat be­sides than the fi­nal score.

Oth­ers can keep track of his yards and records, Chubb is count­ing only his reps on the squat rack. He’s aware the rush­ing ti­tle is within reach, but he’s not mak­ing it a pri­or­ity.

“I work out with him ev­ery Wed­nes­day morn­ing and, just the same quiet guy, hasn’t said a word about it,” Bi­to­nio said. “You hear guys say all I want is the team to win, all I want is team suc­cess and I’m will­ing to bet Nick truly does want just team suc­cess and he would trade wins and ev­ery­thing for yards and touch­downs and it’s a credit to him, man.

“You get a team of 53 Nick Chubbs, you’re go­ing to be do­ing some­thing right.”

Chubb, whose break­away speed has sur­prised de­fen­sive backs, leads the league with 253 car­ries. How­ever, it’s not shock­ing that he in­sists he feels “fresh” de­spite the work­load. His 5.06 yards per carry av­er­age is also tops, and Chubb’s 98.5 yards per game are the most by a Browns player since Hall of Famer Jim Brown, con­sid­ered by many to be the great­est back in pro foot­ball history.

He’s also the first Browns back to gain 1,000 yards from scrim­mage in his first two sea­sons, one of the few feats Brown didn’t ac­com­plish. Chubb sees it as a team award. “We’re all in this to­gether,” he said. “I’m just happy to be able to do it for the Cleve­land Browns and to be a apart of this jour­ney that I’m on. I’m happy I have every­one here with me go­ing through it with me. Ev­ery­body plays a part. The block­ing, the guys block on the out­side, the re­ceivers, the O-line — just every­one. It is not just me.”

Chubb’s pub­lic per­sona hasn’t changed, but he may be feel­ing a lit­tle like a su­per­hero.

Last week on In­sta­gram, Chubb posted a mes­sage for Browns fans.

“I’m what­ever Cleve­land needs me to be,” he wrote.

What did he mean?

“That’s just a Bat­man quote. I like Bat­man,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. Don’t look too deep into it.”

RON SCHWANE/AP

Nick Chubb leads the NFL with 1,281 rush­ing yards and also is first with 253 car­ries and a 5.06 yards per carry av­er­age.

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