NCAA Football

OSU football: Hubbard’s journey to Stillwater involved other Canadians at OSU

OSU football: Hubbard’s journey to Stillwater involved other Canadians at OSU

Oklahoma State quarterback John Kolar (9) fakes a hand off to running back Chuba Hubbard, left, during an NCAA college football intra-squad scrimmage in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, April 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

STILLWATER – When Chuba Hubbard got into open space, he didn’t have as much room to work with as he did in high school.

The redshirt freshman running back is from Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, where the football field is 10 yards longer and nearly 12 yards wider. The game itself is similar, but a consolidated playing area in college meant Hubbard had to find ways to tinker with his skillset.

His first game action at Oklahoma State earned him co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors after racking up 149 all-purpose yards. Hubbard’s speed was highly talked about before he even stepped onto the field, and he finally got to showcase his talents Thursday.

His 42-yard kick return – which was longer than any OSU had last season – wasn’t his best play of the night. Hubbard caught a swing pass on the left flat, juked a defender and accelerated down the numbers in front of the Cowboy bench. As he meandered his way past a couple defenders and into the end zone, Hubbard seemed almost a blur.

The 54-yard score was the result of a year of learning.

“Getting used to the field size wasn’t that hard during my redshirt season,” Hubbard said. “It was more learning about the defense and how to read it. It helped on that play.”

Hubbard is one of three Canadians on OSU’s roster. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga and redshirt senior guard Shane Richards both played high school football in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. During Hubbard’s sophomore and junior season’s, his team lost to Ogbongbemiga’s in the Alberta championships.

Richards was one of the first people to reach out to the dual-sport star during his recruitment. He pitched the idea of joining him in Oklahoma, even though it would put him far from his family.

Former OSU running backs coach Marcus Arroyo was pivotal in recruiting Hubbard. He said without Arroyo, OSU wouldn’t have been so high on his list. When OSU coach Mike Gundy offered Hubbard, he also heard from Ogbongbemiga, who also had high praise for the Cowboys.

It was an easy decision.

“When you find the right school, you get a vibe from it, like, ‘This place is for me,’” Hubbard said. “The people are good here, and it wasn’t all about football. It was about school, getting a great education and family.

“I knew this place was for me.”

Gundy noted how Canada is working to improve its style of American football. He is one of the few college football coaches who have capitalized on the results.

“When we jumped on Chuba, it just kind of worked,” Gundy said. “(Canada’s) trying to get more young men pushed down this way.”

After putting on 17 pounds in the offseason, Hubbard is stronger and more explosive than the fierce athlete he was recruited as. His family was at OSU’s home opener against Missouri State, and Hubbard said they hope to make it down for another game later this season.

But for now, Hubbard is continuing to learn the game. He knows there is plenty of room to improve.

“I want to do whatever I can to help the team,” Hubbard said. “The coaches put me in great positions. I need to continue learning the game and how I can utilize my skills to help us win.”

NCAA Football

Cameron Jourdan has covered Oklahoma State athletics since January 2017. He has written for The Oklahoman, The Tuscaloosa News and the Stillwater News Press, among others. Follow Cameron on Twitter: @Cam_Jourdan

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