2024 CFL Draft profiles: McMaster DE Owen Hubert offers Champaign taste on a Canadian budget

Photo courtesy: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics

The pre-draft process is a stressful time for all football prospects, but Owen Hubert has a little more on his plate than most in the lead-up to the 2024 CFL Combine.

“I’m currently doing a thesis while also trying to prepare for the draft,” the McMaster defensive end told 3DownNation in an interview earlier this offseason. “I’m learning a lot but it’s a little hectic right now.”

Such is life for a star athlete who is also pursuing an honours degree in social psychology, but balancing football and school has always been a priority in the Hubert household. The academic All-Canadian had big shoes to fill in both facets of life, with high-achieving parents who set the bar high.

“Usually when you get people who are good at something, it’s only one thing,” he chuckled. “Both my parents are athletically gifted and academically gifted as well, earning PhDs and master’s while at the same time competing at a very high level in sports.”

It is his mother for whom CFL teams have to thank for Owen’s athletic potential. Kristen Hubert, nee Dupps, was a standout small forward for the University of Illinois basketball team in the early 1990s, starting as a true freshman. She went on to play 109 career games, averaging 12.6 points, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 7.6 rebounds to become one of the best players in the Big Ten and earn a tryout with the Olympic team.

His father, Patrick, was an outstanding high school athlete in his own right, though an injury prevented him from playing at the next level. Franchises owe him an entirely different debt of gratitude, as it was the completion of his Ph.D. in wildlife biology and a resulting job offer from the Canadian government that caused the family to head north when Owen was six years old and settle in Hastings, Ontario.

Though he has spent the gross majority of his life in Canada, Hubert still feels a deep affinity for his birthplace of Champaign, Illinois. While he’s a National in every sense of the word as far as the CFL is concerned, he’ll always feel like a bit of an American at heart.

“The University of Illinois has employed almost all of my family members it seems like, so Illinois is home to me. The USA is home to me because that’s where family is, that’s where I was born,” he admitted. “But I hold a very near and dear place for Canada in my heart as well because I’ve been very fortunate to be in two places that have allowed me to become the person I want to become.”

What he’s developed into on Canadian soil is one of the top defensive line prospects in the 2024 CFL Draft. Standing at six-foot-four and 271 pounds, he possesses all the prototypical size and length that most U Sports defensive ends lack. With enough bend to functionally play off the edge and plenty of size to kick inside, he’s the type of multi-tool pass rusher that teams covet.

That hasn’t always been the case for the former high school linebacker, who picked up the sport at the age of 15 after nearly being suspended from his local soccer league due to physical play. While he quickly became one of the top football recruits in the country, getting on the field consistently after committing to the Marauders took three years’ worth of added weight

The past two years have shown the fruits of his labours, as he’s collected 58 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three batted passes, and a forced fumble in his last 17 games. Those numbers have gotten better along the way, but they have yet to claim bragging rights in the Hubert household.

Those currently belong to younger brother Silas, himself a prolific defensive end at rival Queen’s University. The 2022 J.P. Metras Trophy nominee already has a buzz around him for the 2025 CFL Draft while Owen prepares to go through that door first. However, there is no jealousy on behalf of the elder sibling.

“As brothers, there’s always gonna be rivalry. I mean, even when Si and I were kids, everything we did was about who won and who lost,” he laughed. “I think now with age, it’s become, yeah, I have this accolade over you and I can go shot for shot, but ultimately, I want the other to succeed.”

“I’m just very proud of him and I know he’s proud of me, as much as we probably don’t say it enough to each other. It’s more so a supportive thing than it is a rivalry thing.”

What can’t help but stick in the craw of the Marauder standout is the lack of recognition he’s received for his own production, which surpassed his brother last year as he battled shoulder injuries. Despite notching five sacks in 2023, he was not named an OUA all-star, beaten out by Laurier’s Luke Brubacher and Queen’s Van Wishart for second-team honours.

While the omission was disappointing, Hubert has decided to view it with something other than bitterness.

“You look in the mirror and say, yeah, maybe it’s not just being overlooked. Quite frankly, I have to get better in certain areas to get those awards,” he conceded. “It definitely does motivate me and disappoint me but at the same time, I feel like there’s a plan for me.”

Hubert has already had one chance to impress teams this offseason at the College Gridiron Showcase in Texas. While the event did expose some holes in his pass rush repertoire, it also showed he could compete and win against NCAA competition. He plans to apply some of the lessons learned there to the CFL Combine in Winnipeg, hoping to rise like Riders’ first-round pick Lake Korte-Moore did by following that same path last year.

The former track athlete also hopes to convey to teams that he can be a size mismatch on special teams, with enough endurance to compete on all three downs. The third phase of the game isn’t just an obligation that he feels will help him make a roster but something he actively relishes getting the chance to do.

Ultimately, he sees versatility in all aspects as the ticket to achieving his CFL dream, regardless of what recognition came before it.

“If scouts can look at my game and say he deserves to get drafted, he’s gonna affect our roster and make our team better, and they have a vision for me, then that’s God’s plan, and I’m all for it,” Hubert said. “I don’t need the accolades along the way. I don’t need to be on the media’s top 50 or the Scouting Bureau rankings. I just want to get drafted by a team that wants me and I want to impact that team in a positive way.”

The 2024 CFL Draft is scheduled for April 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.