The first thing Chuba Hubbard noticed was the heat.
The Oklahoma State redshirt freshman running back grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, where the annual average temperature is 61 degrees and just last fall broke an 108-year-old temperature record, hitting a high of 32.2 degrees Celsius – or 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
And so when he made the move to Stillwater to play at OSU, the weather hit him harder than a linebacker.
The average summer months back home ranged in the mid-70s, whereas the average temperature in Stillwater is 71 degrees, with the average summer months reaching into the 90s.
“The heat was a big thing,” Hubbard said.
He said that was the hardest transition, not the football.
Though there has been some transition for him in that regard, as well.
While high school players in America are trying to adjust to the speed of the college game, Hubbard was also having to adjust to American football in general.
Canadian football – even at the high school level – has the larger field at 110 by 65 yards, rather than 100 by 53 1/3 yards in American football, with end zones 20 yards deep as compared to just 10 yards in the States. Canadian football also consists of 12-man teams – so 24 players on the field as a single time, instead of 22.
“It was kind of a different game – the play-calling, learning the defenses,” Hubbard said. “You really had to learn a lot more than what I was doing back home. It really wasn’t too bad, just little things I had to fix, but not anything major.”
Hubbard is no stranger to the United States.
At 14, he competed in the Hershey’s Track and Field Games North American Finals in Pennsylvania – where he won the 100-meter dash for his age bracket.
In 2015, he traveled to Dallas, Texas, to play in the International Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
He rushed for three touchdowns against the U.S. team in leading Canada’s national team to a 42-0 victory, and earning MVP honors in the process.
“That was an awesome feeling, beating USA and we got hyped,” Hubbard said. “Obviously it wasn’t a true all-star team, but it was an awesome feeling to realize I could maybe make it and get a Division I offer.”
From Canadian to Cowboy
The man who spear-headed the recruiting of Hubbard left the OSU program nearly a week after Hubbard signed with the Cowboys.
Former OSU running backs coach Marcus Arroyo was instrumental in landing the recruit. According to Gundy, Arroyo had connections in the area up north that helped get Hubbard on OSU’s radar. Arroyo has since become the offensive coordinator at Oregon.
But Gundy was at the forefront of the international star, as well.
Hubbard said the OSU head man was the second coach to call him his junior year of high school – the day after Colorado State coach Mike Bobo.
“I flew in there, and visited with his coaches and all his people at the school, and his family is right there in the community. We got on him early,” Gundy said.
Gundy was a little concerned as signing day drew near.
He started getting offers from SEC programs like Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, as well as some of the major programs in the Pac-12 – USC, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State.
“He said he wanted to come here, and I wasn’t sure that it would happen in the end with the Oregons and Washingtons and UCLAs and people who are somewhat right there,” Gundy said. “But he stayed with us from day one, and we had a great relationship with his family.”
Family atmosphere and the “Cowboy Culture” is something Gundy has always stressed in Stillwater. And he was able to share that with Hubbard’s family as they descended on Stillwater to watch him in his first college football game against Missouri State.
“I was pleased because they felt like this was by far the best choice for him, and they were glad that he did redshirt last year,” Gundy said.
High school heroics
The Legend of Chuba Hubbard: High School Hero was born in the playoffs his senior season.
Taking a helmet to his left leg in the Alberta Tier 1 provincial championship, Hubbard felt a pain and had an athletic trainer work on his muscle on the sideline thinking it was a mere cramp. He got taped up, and sent back in to finish with 133 rushing yards for the game.
Only after did he find that he had suffered a fibula fracture, and still continued to play through the pain.
“I knew it was a little more than a cramp, but I told them to tape it up and we’ll see what happens,” Hubbard said. “… Adrenaline was going, and you can really do a lot in the moment. I still wish I could have done more to help my team get a win that day.”
Redshirting his first year in Stillwater not only allowed him to adjust to living 2,000 miles away from home, but also to rehab and strengthen his left leg before going through the rigors of Division I college football.
“I definitely had some pain, and used to have to wear a sleeve on it,” Hubbard said. “… I think the redshirt really helped me strengthen myself and learn a lot of things.”
Fortunately for Hubbard, and the Cowboy coaching staff, there wasn’t necessarily a need to run the Canadian star out on the field.
With starter Justice Hill handling 64 percent of the rush attempts by running backs last season, and solid backup options in J.D. King (99 carries for 469 yards) and LD Brown (34 carries for 236 yards), there wasn’t the need to rush the rookie running back out onto the field.
“We could’ve played (Hubbard) last year,” Gundy said. “It’s not always easy if a young man is eager to play to tell them, ‘You need to grow a little bit,’ but it has worked out really well for us. I’m glad that he got as many opportunities as his did the other night (in the opener against Missouri State).”
Those opportunities gave OSU fans – as well as the Cowboy coaching staff – a glimpse into what the feature holds once Hill heads on to the NFL.
In his first game, working as a backup, Hubbard had seven carries for 42 yards along with three catches for 65 yards – including a 54-yard touchdown catch and run, which was the longest by an OSU running back since 2011. He also had a 42-yard kickoff return, the longest since Barry J. Sanders had a 56-yard return in the 2016 Bedlam game.
For his performance, he was named the Big 12 Conference’s Co-Newcomer of the Week for the opening weekend of the season.
“It was a great day. It was fun being my first game,” Hubbard said. “I’m focused on South Alabama now, bringing things that I can and helping get the win with my teammates.”
Oklahoma State star tailback cuts hair as a hobby when time allows
By Jordan Bishop
CNHI Sports Oklahoma
Springtime means a lot of things for many athletes.
Baseball season, NBA playoffs, spring football; the list goes on.
For Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, it means hair-cutting season. For a kid from Tulsa who hated having to pay an arm and a leg just for a shapeup, Hill turned to the internet to learn how to cut his own hair.
Soon, he was cutting his younger brother, Daxton’s, hair and when he arrived in Stillwater, he became the unofficial team barber. After the long winter, when it’s time for spring cleaning, the players go to Hill.
For redshirt freshman Chuba Hubbard, when he came to the United States from Canada last year, he arrived in a foreign place. One of the main things he noticed was he needed to get a trim to adjust to his new city.
He turned to the elder statesman of the running back group in Hill.
“When I first came here, I didn’t have a hair cut for the first few months. Justice was like, ‘I cut hair’ and I thought, ‘Oh, OK,’” Hubbard said. “He cut me up and does a real good job so I told him he could be my barber from now on. He is a great barber, good guy or good friend.”
Hill, a product of Booker T. Washington High, said cutting hair is one of the many things he does outside of football to diversify his portfolio. He also likes to keep up with the stock exchange as he has been seriously investing since he had the money to do so.
“It has been my passion for the longest time,” Hill said. “Whenever I got the funds to do stuff like that, it’s what I started doing.”
Excelling at everything he tries his hand at, Hill has a larger clientele than just his brother and Hubbard though, saying the list is longer than he can list.
“Too many to name. Just some guys who needed some help,” Hill said.
Hill conducts his work inside his dorm room, set with a swivel chair and a lamp to help see where he needs to make his cuts. For Hubbard, it was all about the drop fade. When Hill first started, the hot hairstyle was one that mirrored New York Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., he told Fox’s Joel Klatt.
Not only did Hill start to get into the art of cutting hair because of his own pocket, but also because there aren’t that many places around that compare with his own skills. Players don’t just go to him since he is close, but because they know he can do a good job.
He doesn’t get his razors or anything from the Dollar Shave Club, but searches for the best materials on Amazon that he can add to his toolkit.
Hill has a definite future in the NFL, with him being on the Doak Walker Watch List at the beginning of the season and a possible dark horse for the Heisman Trophy. After football, he hopes to stay in the financial realm with his stocks and getting into real estate.
However, Hubbard said there is a possibility that one of those real estate ventures could be Hill’s own barbershop because he is that good.
“Seriously talking, he could open up his own barber shop,” Hubbard said. “He is that good and talented. Obviously on the field and off the field, too.”