The start to redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard’s football career was unconventional at best. Now, just a few years after a fateful recruiting trip by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to Archbishop Moeller High School, Hubbard is hearing his name mentioned alongside San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.
To think, the entire journey began when OSU coaches watched him play dodgeball.
In the winter of 2012, Meyer and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs found their way to Archbishops Moeller on a recruiting trip. After watching the big-framed body move around the basketball court with ease, Meyer wanted to see what he could do on the field.
“Who is that big freak running around on the gym floor?” Meyer jokingly said during a radio show in 2014. He was an average football player, but a great dodgeball player.”
Hubbard was a skilled lacrosse player, who just so happened to be a first-team Associated Press Division I all-state safety in 2013. After considering playing lacrosse in college, a football scholarship offer from the Buckeyes landed Hubbard in Columbus.
Hubbard redshirted the 2014 season and spent the year experimenting with playing at linebacker and tight end with OSU coaches.
With a full season under his belt last year, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native is blossoming in his pass-rushing role. With six games down in 2016, Hubbard has 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks and is a key member of the Rushmen package that has been brought in for third-down passing scenarios.
“Oh, the defensive line is walking on — they’re walking around here like they’re king of the hill,” Meyer said on the Monday following the Indiana game. “Like all elite warriors, you wait for your next mission, and that’s what those guys are doing.”
Hubbard is one of those warriors, and he has been proving it all year. After using his speed and length to dip under opposing offensive tackles last season, the use of a bull rush to drive the tackle backwards into the opposition’s pocket and running lane is another weapon in his repertoire.
Against Wisconsin, Hubbard put the newfound talent on display, barreling over the blocker in front of him en route to the quarterback, as well as the ball carrier. All plays like these did not result in a sack or a tackle for loss, but the skill showed and Hubbard said it’s been something he has worked on.
“That’s definitely something I’ve been working on,” Hubbard said. “I needed to develop that power rush to really become more dynamic. That was just a long year in the weight room and working with coach (Larry) Johnson on how to accomplish that. Still got work to do, but it’s developing.”
Joey Bosa, a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers, has earned two sacks in the first two games of his rookie season. Along with six combined tackles, the first-round hype behind the Florida native has yet to be fulfilled at the NFL level due to an injury keeping him out for four weeks.
However, his college career was nothing short of spectacular. Hearing his own name mentioned along with such a special athlete has made Hubbard work that much harder at his game, without causing him to play tight.
“It gives me confidence for sure, and I wouldn’t say it scares me with the expectation,” Hubbard said. “It’s just motivation. I’ve seen the best with Joey, and it’s a place I want to get to. I know what it takes and how to get there. I just need to keep working, keep grinding and keep making plays.”