CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard received a special text message after his team's dramatic win over Kansas City earlier this month.
The Bengals had just clinched the AFC North title Jan. 2 at Paul Brown Stadium and a playoff berth for the first time since the 2015 season.
It also locked in the first NFL playoff appearance for Hubbard, a 2014 Moeller High School graduate.
"Marvin Lewis texted me after the game, 'Congratulations,'" Hubbard said. Lewis drafted Hubbard in 2018. "And I just told him, 'Thank you for bringing me here.' That was a pretty cool moment. But, you know I owe Marvin a lot for that. It's something that doesn't happen very often. I'm very blessed."
Hubbard, a former Ohio State University defensive end and Moeller safety, has a sincere appreciation for this postseason opportunity.
The Bengals (10-7) host the visiting Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) in a wild-card game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
"A lot of guys go their whole career without being able to get to the playoffs," Hubbard said. "And to do it in year four, I still feel like I've got a lot of football left to play. Whatever happens this will be an amazing experience for the future to get where we want to be."
What is certain is that Hubbard's future is in his hometown.
The 2018 third-round draft pick recently signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension through the 2025 season.
"To be able to get a contract secured and have my future here secured and then put together a winning season and win the division - it's everything I dreamed of," Hubbard said.
"I still have other things on my goal list to accomplish here and I think we're in a great position to keep going after those goals."
Hubbard has 59 tackles (30 solo), 7 1/2 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble for the Bengals this season.
"Sam has had a heck of a year," Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. "Just what you want every day. He's the same guy. The level of consistency that we get from him day in and day out is exactly what you want."
That consistency is also through Hubbard's leadership among his teammates. He is a captain for the first time this season, too.
"It's important to me just because I try to do things the right way," Hubbard said. "There is a lot of great leaders in this locker room and to be named one of the captains by my teammates - I don't think there is any greater honor."
Roncalli (Indianapolis) High School football coach John Rodenberg, a former Moeller head coach, isn't surprised by Hubbard's accolades on the field and in the locker room.
"I follow Sam's Instagram account," Rodenberg said. "He's always shouting out other guys on the team for their accomplishments. Sam Hubbard doesn't accept any negativity. He is constantly pumping the Bengals up."
Hubbard's positive outlook is exhibited beyond football, too.
Last month, he was nominated for the 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in recognition for community service activities off the field and excellence on the field.
"That was really special," Hubbard said. "That was something that I never anticipated happening. I think that the things that I have in store to do giving back to this city that raised me is going to be something really special and probably something I'm most excited about over the next several years."
Hubbard launched the Sam Hubbard Foundation, which aims to combat hunger and provide vulnerable children and families with educational, medical and athletic resources.
"Sam Hubbard can engage people," Rodenberg said. "Sam doesn't have a clique. He doesn't have a crowd. Sam is the type of guy that can look at everybody and get them involved and get them fired up."