Canadian running back Chuba Hubbard has a different gear than any of his counterparts in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 21-year-old Sherwood Park, Alta. native ran two fast forty-yard dashes at his Oklahoma State University pro day. That helps Hubbard be confident in his ability to make an instant impact at the professional level.
“Some 4.3s, some 4.4s — it was a decent time, it wasn’t too bad,” Hubbard said in a videoconference with his humility readily apparent.
All 32 NFL franchises had at least one representative in Stillwater, Okla. for the Canadian Cowboy’s workout. Hubbard proved he’s an excellent athlete and showed onlookers the off-season has provided him time to become fully healthy again. That wasn’t the case for the 2020 schedule as Hubbard played through an in-season high ankle sprain.
“This last year people can say I had a down year, a lot of people don’t know I was coming off surgeries. There was a lot of different things going on with my body and my health,” Hubbard said.
“I was coming off two surgeries after that 2019 season, coming into the 2020 season I had some lingering issues. Just wanted to show I’m back healthy.”
Hubbard accomplished his mission, displaying a shredded physique and moving well in on-field drills. Even though Oklahoma State didn’t use Hubbard in the passing game a lot, he showed NFL scouts that he can run routes and catch the ball. And through the pre-draft process, Hubbard has been contacted by every team.
NFL personnel people view Hubbard as an intriguing evaluation: “He had a stellar redshirt sophomore season, then battled injury, and struggled in his redshirt junior year. But he tested really well. Hubbard could be chosen in the middle rounds or go late, potentially even undrafted depending how the whole thing goes.”
“Talking to teams, I’m a very raw player — that’s the way I look at it. I got a lot of room to grow,” Hubbard said.
“I have a lot of things to work on. I feel that I do a lot of things well but I’m always trying to get faster, stronger, work on my hands, work on my routes, pass protection — all these different things.”
The last Canadian running back selected in the NFL Draft was Tim Biakabutuka in 1996 when the Carolina Panthers chose him in the first round. He rushed for 2,530 yards and 14 touchdowns over six seasons with the team, though his career and potential was hampered by injuries.
Tyler Varga was the last Canadian ball carrier to play in an NFL game in 2015. He signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts and played three games as a rookie, rushing one time for two yards, catching one pass for 18 yards, and returning six kick-offs for 151 yards. After suffering a concussion against the Tennessee Titans in his rookie season, Varga retired.
“Only a few out of Canada even make it, only a few get drafted from the States as well. To be in this position, I’m forever thankful,” Hubbard said.
“Wherever I get drafted, first round, seventh round, undrafted free agent, whatever happens I just need a shot — I’ll be ready for it.”
Hubbard can handle a feature back role — his 2,000-yard season from 2019 serves as proof. It’s a rare feat accomplished only 35 times in the storied history of NCAA Division I football. Unique traits and abilities have given the six-foot, 210-pound back confidence to transition his playmaking ways into the NFL.
“I think I’m one of the top running backs, if not the top,” Hubbard said. “Whatever team decides to pick me up, I can help them win a championship.”