In the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected one of the best offensive playmakers in Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard.
A nagging ankle injury and a controversial off-the-field disagreement between Hubbard and his head coach, Mike Gundy, could have been the main factors of him sliding to day three of the draft.
"Like I said, 2020 was just a year of growth for me," Hubbard said. "A lot of learning lessons, trying to become a better person, trying to do the right thing. And you know being on the outside looking in and seeing that whole situation that happened, a lot of people can twist it and make it seem like something that it’s not when in reality that whole situation that went down there I really felt made me a better person, made Coach Gundy a better person and also made the program a better place. Like I said, I'm always trying to just become a better person, always trying to do the right thing so that was really the case there."
Hubbard had the right intentions but it was perceived by some as him "throwing his coach under the bus" and those that made those statements could've damaged his draft stock. Nonetheless, Hubbard continued to silence the outside noise, put his head down, and worked on getting healthy this offseason in an effort to impress the scouts ahead of the draft.
One coach that had already fallen in love with Hubbard's skill set was Carolina's Matt Rhule. Rhule had faced Hubbard a couple of years ago when he was the head coach at Baylor. In that game, Hubbard rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. When it came to the third day of the draft, Matt's wife, Julie, told him to draft Hubbard.
"I've gotta tell you this, man," Rhule said to Hubbard. "About 10 minutes ago, my wife texted me and said, 'Please take Chuba Hubbard.' So she speaks, it happens.''
Ironically/Coincidentally, the one team Hubbard always loved watching was the Carolina Panthers. He wanted to be here and was ecstatic to receive the news that he would be heading to Carolina.
"I mean I always liked the Panthers. I grew up a big Cam Newton fan. I was always watching the Panthers. When they went to the Super Bowl against the Broncos, I was really hoping the Panthers were going to win that, I'm not going to lie. I love the Panthers. I'm forever fortunate enough, forever blessed you to know be chosen by them. I've got a big chip on my shoulder. I promise they are going to get the best of it"
Drafting Hubbard does not mean that the Panthers are going to be moving on from Christian McCaffrey in the near future. This was more of an insurance pick to assure Carolina that they would still have a dynamic back in the backfield if McCaffrey were to continue to deal with injuries in 2020. Last season, McCaffrey missed 13 games due to multiple injuries. Hubbard knows the situation he is walking into and understands that McCaffrey is going to be the guy but he feels like he can still be a big piece to the Panthers' offense.
"I know I definitely need to work on my pass protection so that is definitely something I know I can get better at. In regards to the passing game and all that stuff, I definitely think I can be a threat there and a weapon there. Obviously, Christian McCaffrey does a lot of work there. I model a lot of my stuff when it comes to catching the ball after him. So I feel I can bring a lot of the same stuff he can.
"I'm coming there to win a championship beside Christian McCaffrey and beside the rest of my Panthers teammates. Just forever blessed and fortunate enough to have this opportunity."
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