Back to school: Chuba Hubbard foregoes NFL, returns to Oklahoma State for another season
Texas A&M defensive lineman Jayden Peevy (92) snags Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (30) for a tackle during the second half of the Texas Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
EDMONTON -- Canada’s Cowboy will be back for another ride at Oklahoma State.
Sherwood Park’s Chuba Hubbard announced today that he will return to the Stillwater, Okla. school for his junior year rather than go pro and enter the National Football League draft.
He announced the decision in a Twitter video posted Monday afternoon.
His announcement ends weeks of speculation after a 2019 season that saw him emerge as a college football star, lead the sport in rushing and become only the fourth Canadian, and first Albertan, to be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Hubbard was expected to announce his decision on Friday but instead tweeted he needed more time to "figure out the best decision."
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Cowboys Coach Mike Gundy had expected Hubbard to return, telling the Dallas Morning News, “I think there’s a really good chance he’s on our football team next year. I don’t think any of us could say 100 per cent.”
Hubbard has two years of college eligibility remaining having played parts of two seasons after sitting out, or redshirting, his first year with the Cowboys.
Hubbard returns to a team that finished 22nd of 130 schools in average offence, but finished with a pedestrian eight win, five loss record.
Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders and star receiver Tylan Wallace are also returning to the Cowboys next season.
Despite being the sport’s most prolific rusher in 2019, Hubbard wasn’t considered a likely first round NFL draft selection.
Draft experts had Hubbard as being selected between the second and fifth rounds as anywhere between the third and sixth running back selected.
His pro potential is bolstered by his eye-popping stats and sprinter's speed. He was also the focal point of the Cowboys offence over the season's final weeks when injuries kept the team's starting quarterback and top wide receiver on the sidelines.
But the position's inherent injury risk has NFL teams increasingly taking a quantity-over-quality approach to running backs, citing analytics that even top runners are easily replaced.
Last year, 25 running backs were drafted by NFL teams, but only two were selected before the third round. Fifteen of the 25 were taken in the fourth round or later.
"He's only played in 14 games in his career. He's probably 10 or 12 games from maybe elevating himself into the latter part of the first round or second round which is three times the money of a fourth round pick," said coach Gundy.
His Cowboys running back predecessors Chris Carson and Justice Hill are both in the NFL, with Hill leaving school a year early in 2019 before being drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Oklahoma State won a recruiting war for Hubbard in 2016 after he rushed for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns over three years with the Bev Facey Falcons.
After showing flashes of potential in limited playing time near the end of 2018, Hubbard broke out last season.
In becoming college football's top rusher, he ran for at least 100 yards in 11 straight games this season, including four performances of over 200 yards.
He was a unanimous selection to the All-American team and became the 32nd player in college football history, and second from Oklahoma State, to reach 2,000 yards rushing in a season.
Cowboys fans dubbed him "Canada's Cowboy" and he earned public plaudits from Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers and former OSU running back alum and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Barry Sanders.
Hubbard may have tipped his hand that he was returning to school by suiting up for the Cowboys in the post-season Dec. 27 bowl game rather than sit out and avoid injury risk that would damage his pro prospects.
Hubbard ran for 158 yards in the team’s 24-21 defeat to Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.
“Just to finish the season with my teammates," he told the team's website before the game.
"I feel like I wouldn't be that team guy if I held back."