In a league with a faster pace than ever, this seemingly overused phrase is as truthful as ever. The likes of Dalvin Cook, Tyreek Hill, Tarik Cohen, Marquise Brown and even John Ross are all making a living busting off long play after long play - using their unreal explosion and burst to the best of their abilities. Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard may just be the next name in that ever-growing NFL trend.
The definition of a home-run threat, Hubbard is a Canadian-born runner who has seemingly flown under the radar in his short collegiate career. Winner of Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung Award (Outstanding Newcomer), he was an electrifying presence in his redshirt freshman season - providing the 2018 Cowboys with a much-needed spark. Playing behind 4th Round pick Justice Hill, the ball-carrier played to the best of his abilities in limited snaps, rushing for roughly 6 yards a carry and averaging well over 100 yards in every game he got more than a dozen carries.
With Hill off to the NFL, Oklahoma State has finally given Hubbard the starting role this season, and let’s just say he’s paid them back handsomely. The Canadian Cowboy is currently on pace to rush for an astounding 2251 yards this season (yeah, I did the math) - already having gone for over 200 yards from scrimmage in 3 of his 5 games played. Dragging OSU on his thickly built shoulders, it’s safe to say that Hubbard has officially entered the Heisman race - something that hasn’t been said about an RB at Oklahoma State since the great Barry Sanders. It may be shocking to some, but not if you’ve followed his impressive athletic journey.
Currently a Team Canada sprinter, Hubbard has been around the running track since he was just a small child, and he explained that much in a 2018 feature with the Stillwater News-Press.
“I’ve been running track longer than football,” Hubbard stated. “It was my first love. It’s always fun to do track. I’ve got to travel a lot for it. I love football because it’s a team sport, but I also love the individual aspect of track because of all that you put into it.”
Dominant during high school, Hubbard cruised through Canadian meets with absurd times. At just 17 he was blazing the 100-meter dash in 10.55 seconds - placing 4th in the IAAF World Youth Championship. For some perspective, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III - widely considered the fastest player in college football - posted a 10.58-second 100-meter dash, which is an Alabama record at the 7A level. Hubbard also sprinted 200 meters in 22.07 seconds, which is more than 2 whole seconds faster than Georgia star RB D’Andre Swift's high school time (24.66). Now, of course, all those impressive numbers don’t mean much if you can’t back it with production on the football field. Thankfully, Hubbard can.
A threat to take it the distance in any run, Hubbard has already used that speed to good use, specifically last weekend against Kansas State. His natural burst and explosion have allowed Hubbard to see open creases and hit them with a purpose - runs of 53, 84, and 44 yards on Saturday all being prime examples of that. With 938 through 5 games (already 198 more than last year), Hubbard is averaging the most yards per game of any tailback in the nation (187.6), with Wisconsin junior Jonathan Taylor more than 40 back of his torrid tempo (139.8). The Canadian Cowboy has quite literally had one of the best starts for an RB this decade, with only Leonard Fournette and Bryce Love eclipsing his record-breaking pace. However, the redshirt sophomore is seemingly still going unnoticed. It’s a sad state of affairs, but ultimately nothing new for Hubbard.
Stuck in the shadow of other star backs during his collegiate recruitment period, Hubbard suffered from something that very few NFL players have dealt with - living in Canada. Now that’s not a shot at the country, but it’s no secret that living in the great white north creates large hurdles towards achieving a professional career. Trying to be noticed by scouts when you’re living in an entirely different country is a challenge, and Hubbard was forced to try and compensate for the lack of recognition with his astounding play. Rushing for 3213 yards and 40 touchdowns in his sophomore year of high school, he quite literally did everything possible to try and draw attention his way - yet the interest still didn’t come. As Hubbard explained in a 2016 Bleacher Report feature, it wasn’t all that surprising.
"College coaches aren't thinking they'll find the next Najee Harris or Derrick Henry in Canada. Last year, I can confidently say no American coach had even heard of Chuba or knew what a Chuba was."
Thankfully, Hubbard was able to get on the map after receiving some help from former Candian Football League star Jed Roberts - an alumnus of Northern Colorado. Roberts’ work with Hubbard attracted several colleges, including Colorado State, to look into the speedy RB’s game. To no surprise, they fell in love - offering Hubbard his first scholarship. It wouldn’t be his last.
After that initial pin dropped, over 20 American universities came calling, with Oklahoma State eventually winning Hubbard’s services. Of course, that leads him to the present, where the thought of Hubbard falling through the Canadian tracks now seems unfathomable. It almost happened though, and the college version seems like it’s already starting to come to fruition.
You can draw it up to inferior competition, scheming, offensive line play, or any number of things to belittle his success, but one thing is certain - Hubbard is “blink and you’ll miss it” special. Maybe everyone keeps blinking, because his extreme impact just isn’t getting the national recognition it deserves.