WCPO's Mike Dyer is giving a behind-the-scenes look at how Cincinnati Bengals rookie Sam Hubbard is adjusting to life in the NFL, both on and off the field. These stories will chronicle how the former Ohio State and Moeller standout is progressing with on-field play, interactions with teammates and coaches and his new day-to-day experience of life as an NFL player.
CINCINNATI -- Sam Hubbard has the football from his touchdown Sunday afternoon but he hasn't decided what to do with it yet.
A day after the Cincinnati Bengals rookie defensive end scored his first career NFL touchdown in the 27-17 win over the visiting Miami Dolphins , Hubbard maintained his same demeanor among his teammates, coaches and the media.
"I love to see the energy," Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said Monday afternoon. "He's so humble. He's so bright-eyed every day. He's always in here ready to learn. He comes in and asks questions. He's trying to get better."
Social media was buzzing Sunday with the impact Hubbard , a former Ohio State standout and 2014 Moeller High School graduate, has had on the Bengals' defensive line. He had three tackles but it was his 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 2:37 left which proved to seal the game.
"I love it," said Hubbard, a third-round draft pick in April. "It's going better than I could've dreamed and I just want to keep it going."
Much has been made of how Hubbard and Bengals veteran defensive lineman Michael Johnson scored defensive touchdowns 10 minutes apart in the fourth quarter Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium .
It was the first time in franchise history that two defensive linemen scored touchdowns in the same game, according to Bengals Director of Media Relations PJ Combs. It was also the first time two defensive linemen scored touchdowns in the same quarter in an NFL game since Minnesota's Tim Newton and Keith Millard did that against Atlanta Dec. 10, 1989 at the Metrodome .
That was years before Hubbard was born. The Hometown Kid hasn't deviated from his approach this season even though the spotlight continues to shine on him.
"He's not like an average rookie, in his maturity and the way he approaches his game," Johnson said Sunday. "He's always ready to go, a team-first guy, like myself. I have a lot of respect for him."
Hubbard's No. 94 home jersey was placed on sale in the Bengals Pro Shop Friday. Hubbard is the only rookie to have his NFL Pro Line Fanatics jersey for sale in the store ($100). Prior to Friday, only the customized jersey was available.
Family and friends continue to enjoy Hubbard's performance for the Bengals (4-1), but just like in August, the Downtown resident is keeping everything in perspective.
"That's the most important thing," Hubbard said. "At Ohio State I had a lot of success and I kind of got comfortable a little bit my sophomore year and didn't do as well as I wanted to do. I learned a valuable lesson that if you are handed success early and you allow it to get to your head and you don't keep working and keep doing the things that made you successful in the first place -- then you are not going to keep climbing the way you want to climb and get better. That's really just my focus right now -- playing good -- but there are a lot of things I need to do better."
Hubbard, who has 11 tackles (three for loss) this season, never scored a touchdown while at Ohio State or at Moeller. He said Monday he wasn't even close.
Yet he downplayed the significance of the play with his teammates at Paul Brown Stadium Monday. The focus is on Pittsburgh (2-2-1) this week.
"Sam is a baller so he is going to keep balling," said Bengals defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, who has a locker next to Hubbard.
Yet, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis always wants improvement. The players know what's at stake this week.
Reporters asked Hubbard about the Steelers and drew comparisons to the Ohio State versus Michigan rivalry.
Players will try to keep the mantra of business-as-usual, but the Bengals haven't defeated the Steelers since Nov. 1, 2015. There is plenty at stake. Hubbard understands the bad memories but he and his teammates want a win for the city.
"I haven't experienced a game against the Steelers yet," Hubbard said. "I will this week, and I am sure it will be a different level of intensity."