Sherwood Park's Chuba Hubbard ready for one more ride at Oklahoma State
EDMONTON -- After an offseason that saw him forgo a chance at the National Football League, pick a short-lived Twitter fight with his coach, and quit social media after calling it "a playground of hate," Sherwood Park's Chuba Hubbard is ready to focus to football.
"I feel great. I’m bigger, stronger, faster. I fixed a lot of things I need to work on so I feel good going into the season," he said.
The Oklahoma State running back emerged as a college football star last season, leading the sport in rushing, and becoming just the fourth Canadian, and first since 1995, to receive votes for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player.
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Hubbard, 21, is looking for a repeat performance in this year's shortened schedule ahead of a possible jump to the NFL in the spring.
"I didn’t come back to break records for myself. I came back to win a Big 12 championship, a national championship with my team. That’s my goal."
The man known as Canada's Cowboy will have to wait a few more days to ride again, after Oklahoma State's season opener against rivals Tulsa was postponed until Sept. 19, after seven of his teammates were reported to be actively carrying COVID-19.
"I know a lot of just want to play. That’s the biggest thing for us," he said.
"I know people are itching to play."
Hubbard and the Cowboys' season ended in December with a 24-21 defeat to Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.
Many thought Hubbard would make the jump to the pros, but in January he announced he would return for another season and not enter the NFL draft.
In June, Hubbard tweeted he "will not be doing anything" with the football team in response to an image showing Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy wearing T-shirt promoting One America News Network.
The cable channel and website has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and praised by President Donald Trump.
"This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable," Hubbard wrote.
Later the same day, the star player and coach appeared in a video together with Gundy promising to make changes.
“I listened to what the players had to say and took all things into account,” Gundy said. "They helped me see, through their eyes, how the T-shirt affected their hearts.
“Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted and knew it was completely unacceptable to me."
Hubbard returned to the team and says he's seeing the signs of change he had been seeking.
"I thought that it helped us in the end and we’re heading in the right direction," he said.
In July, Hubbard again took to social media to call for the resignation of an Oklahoma County District Attorney who he said had "overstepped his position by allowing police brutality and excessive force to continue against demonstrators."
His comment drew backlash on Twitter and Hubbard later posted he was stepping away from social media "until further notice."
He has since tweeted only once, on Aug. 9 in support of playing the college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oklahoma State is a member of the Big 12 Conference, one of three major conferences to play football this fall. Other "power conferences" including the Pac 12 and Big 10 postponed their seasons due to the pandemic.
BIG 12 TITLE HOPES
On the field, it should be a smoother ride for Hubbard and the Cowboys than last year's eight win, five loss record.
The team is returning its starting quarterback and top two wide receivers, with Gundy saying Hubbard will be the centrepiece of the team's offence again.
"He’s going to get his carries,” said Gundy.
"I would hope that he wouldn’t have to carry it about 30 times a game, but if he does for us to be successful on offence and he feels good then we’ll continue to give it to him."
The team is playing a reduced schedule of 10 games, all but one against conference opponents, with limited crowds.
Hubbard, a third-year junior, will have one year of college eligibility left after this season but may not again pass up the chance to go pro again this time around.
But for now, those pro prospects remain on winter horizon as Hubbard readies for the season ahead.
"Last year, a lot of good things happened," he said.
"I just realized that I've got to work on a lot of things and I did so I'm happy where I'm at right now."