COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sam Hubbard is sitting in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on an unseasonably chilly Thursday morning the first week of April.
The NFL Draft is April 26 and the 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end is doing everything he can to prepare -- physically and mentally -- for his unknown destination in a few weeks.
It’s more of a hurry-up-and-wait mode for the former Moeller High School standout. He is at peace with that. He leans on his agent, Joel Siegel, for business advice.
“At this point I’ve really done all I can,” Hubbard told WCPO on April 5. “It’s kind of out of my hands. It’s hard to get information from teams -- you never know what they are thinking. So it’s kind of all up in the air.”
Wearing a Columbus T-shirt, Hubbard, a 2014 Moeller graduate, is proud of what he left as a Buckeye. Hubbard graduated from Ohio State in December 2017 with his degree in finance and elected to bypass his fourth and final season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.
But he still works out on campus and has a locker at the training complex. He is not a stranger to the team. There was a great deal of equity to put into this program.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Hubbard said.
He is very strict about his diet and eats lean meals specifically prepared for him a few days a week. This is a time to get serious about the draft. He will be with family and friends in Montgomery during draft night. Rookie mini-camp is shortly after the draft.
“It’s always been a dream,” Hubbard said. “I didn’t really get serious about it or think (the draft) was attainable until after my redshirt freshman year. At that point I was trying to get on the field here and contribute to Ohio State. And after I got on the field and made some plays I really thought that this could be a possibility for me, and I am going to do everything I can to put myself in the best position to be a professional football player.”
The former Moeller lacrosse standout worked out in front of some NFL coaches including Bill Belichick in late March at the training center field. Belichick was hitting the bags and personally taking Hubbard and a few others through drills.
“I just thought it was so cool that someone that big-time of a coach can coach guys like me already,” Hubbard said. “I walked around and I ran into Marvin Lewis. It kind of takes your breath away. But you have to always be on your toes and present yourself well and be honest about who you are and get to know these guys so they get to know you.”
Hubbard has visited with NFL teams. He has asked other former Ohio State players for advice on making the transition to the pro level. But he also finds time to relax. He plays Fortnite with Los Angeles Chargers defensive end and former Ohio State teammate Joey Bosa.
ESPN College Football analyst Rocky Boiman, a former NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champion, says any team that drafts Hubbard “is going to get a home run.”
Hubbard used to work with Boiman prior to his collegiate career. The two exchanged texts earlier this month; Boiman has enjoyed watching Hubbard grow from a free safety to a defensive end the past several years.
“The No. 1 skill NFL teams are looking for is you better know that a guy can eat, sleep and breathe football,” Boiman said. “They have to love the process but not just the money and fame. I know Sam Hubbard is a guy who loves the game of football.”
The Bengals snapped Hubbard up at No. 77 the night of April 27. It was later than some analysts had predicted -- there was some speculation he would be the first Moeller grad in years to be picked in the first round -- but he was excited to keep playing in his home state.
“I think with Sam you are still dealing with a guy whose ability is untapped because essentially he’s only played two full years of defensive end at Ohio State," said former Moeller football coach John Rodenberg, who is now at Lawrence Central in Indianapolis. "I think teams love his motor. He has a great motor. I think he is a no-brainer. But, to be honest with you, I think he is more of a 3-4 guy than a 4-3.”
One aspect was certain, even in the weeks leading up to the pick: The NFL will receive a high-character player who is willing to put in the time and effort immediately.
“He’s not too big for anything,” Rodenberg said. “He’s got a lot of things going for him. That’s probably what makes me the most proud. He works hard at what he does.”
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