Carolina Panthers’ running back Chuba Hubbard is taking in the Battle of Alberta at Commonwealth Stadium and he’s made an interesting choice of attire for the contest.
Hubbard, who hails from the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park, had his presence announced by his hometown team on Twitter and shared videos on his Instagram story of he and other family members seated at field level. Hubbard and his entourage were presented with customized number 30 Edmonton Elks jerseys for the experience.
— Edmonton Elks (@GoElks) July 8, 2022
The catch: while Hubbard grew up cheering for Edmonton, his CFL rights are currently owned by the rival Calgary Stampeders, who drafted him 43rd overall in the fifth round of the 2021 CFL Draft. In short, the Elks invited one of their opponent’s most recognizable prospects to take in the rivalry game and decked him out in their own kit.
The marketing ploy was a good one by Edmonton, capitalizing on the presence of a hometown hero. The subtle jab is unlikely to anger the Stampeders organization either, as Hubbard is unlikely to play a down in the CFL.
The Canadian ball carrier was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, 126th overall, and signed an entry-level contract with the Carolina Panthers worth nearly $4.2 million. With star Christian McCaffrey battling injury, Hubbard saw considerable playing time as a rookie, racking up 612 yards and five touchdowns on 172 carries. He also added 25 receptions for 174 yards and another score.
Hubbard first drew the attention of American scouts when he played at Bev Facey Community High School in his hometown. He has rushed 458 times for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns over three years playing Canadian football.
Hubbard would go on to a dominant collegiate career at Oklahoma State University, where he led the NCAA with 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore. Hubbard was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year and finished eighth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football.
Many pundits speculated that he would have been a second or third-round pick had he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Instead, Hubbard returned to Oklahoma State for his redshirt junior season, providing his desire to lead his team to a conference championship.
The Cowboys started the season strong at 5-1 but were manhandled by rival Oklahoma on November 21 by a score of 41-13. Hubbard re-aggravated an injury that had plagued him for parts of the year, ending his season. Hubbard finished the season with 133 carries for 625 yards and five touchdowns, by far the worst totals of his college career.
The NFL came calling nonetheless and Hubbard has risen to the occasion with the Panthers, providing inspiration for many young athletes in the Edmonton area. While he’d have to suit up for Calgary if he ever came north, it’s clear that it is the Elks that truly have the running back’s heart.