The first thing Chuba Hubbard noticed was the heat.
The Oklahoma State redshirt freshman running back grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, where the annual average temperature is 61 degrees and just last fall broke an 108-year-old temperature record, hitting a high of 32.2 degrees Celsius – or 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
And so when he made the move to Stillwater to play at OSU, the weather hit him harder than a linebacker.
The average summer months back home ranged in the mid-70s, whereas the average temperature in Stillwater is 71 degrees, with the average summer months reaching into the 90s.
“The heat was a big thing,” Hubbard said.
He said that was the hardest transition, not the football.
Though there has been some transition for him in that regard, as well.
While high school players in America are trying to adjust to the speed of the college game, Hubbard was also having to adjust to American football in general.
Canadian football – even at the high school level – has the larger field at 110 by 65 yards, rather than 100 by 53 1/3 yards in American football, with end zones 20 yards deep as compared to just 10 yards in the States. Canadian football also consists of 12-man teams – so 24 players on the field as a single time, instead of 22.
“It was kind of a different game – the play-calling, learning the defenses,” Hubbard said. “You really had to learn a lot more than what I was doing back home. It really wasn’t too bad, just little things I had to fix, but not anything major.”
Hubbard is no stranger to the United States.
At 14, he competed in the Hershey’s Track and Field Games North American Finals in Pennsylvania – where he won the 100-meter dash for his age bracket.
In 2015, he traveled to Dallas, Texas, to play in the International Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
He rushed for three touchdowns against the U.S. team in leading Canada’s national team to a 42-0 victory, and earning MVP honors in the process.
“That was an awesome feeling, beating USA and we got hyped,” Hubbard said. “Obviously it wasn’t a true all-star team, but it was an awesome feeling to realize I could maybe make it and get a Division I offer.”
From Canadian to Cowboy
The man who spear-headed the recruiting of Hubbard left the OSU program nearly a week after Hubbard signed with the Cowboys.
Former OSU running backs coach Marcus Arroyo was instrumental in landing the recruit. According to Gundy, Arroyo had connections in the area up north that helped get Hubbard on OSU’s radar. Arroyo has since become the offensive coordinator at Oregon.
But Gundy was at the forefront of the international star, as well.
Hubbard said the OSU head man was the second coach to call him his junior year of high school – the day after Colorado State coach Mike Bobo.
“I flew in there, and visited with his coaches and all his people at the school, and his family is right there in the community. We got on him early,” Gundy said.
Gundy was a little concerned as signing day drew near.
He started getting offers from SEC programs like Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, as well as some of the major programs in the Pac-12 – USC, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State.
“He said he wanted to come here, and I wasn’t sure that it would happen in the end with the Oregons and Washingtons and UCLAs and people who are somewhat right there,” Gundy said. “But he stayed with us from day one, and we had a great relationship with his family.”
Family atmosphere and the “Cowboy Culture” is something Gundy has always stressed in Stillwater. And he was able to share that with Hubbard’s family as they descended on Stillwater to watch him in his first college football game against Missouri State.
“I was pleased because they felt like this was by far the best choice for him, and they were glad that he did redshirt last year,” Gundy said.
High school heroics
The Legend of Chuba Hubbard: High School Hero was born in the playoffs his senior season.
Taking a helmet to his left leg in the Alberta Tier 1 provincial championship, Hubbard felt a pain and had an athletic trainer work on his muscle on the sideline thinking it was a mere cramp. He got taped up, and sent back in to finish with 133 rushing yards for the game.
Only after did he find that he had suffered a fibula fracture, and still continued to play through the pain.
“I knew it was a little more than a cramp, but I told them to tape it up and we’ll see what happens,” Hubbard said. “… Adrenaline was going, and you can really do a lot in the moment. I still wish I could have done more to help my team get a win that day.”
“We could’ve played (Hubbard) last year,” Gundy said. “It’s not always easy if a young man is eager to play to tell them, ‘You need to grow a little bit,’ but it has worked out really well for us. I’m glad that he got as many opportunities as his did the other night (in the opener against Missouri State).”