'Canada's Cowboy' Chuba Hubbard responds to mounting Heisman Trophy hype

Chuba Hubbard says he focuses on winning games, not awards, but that hasn’t stopped football fans from speculating about the Canadian sophomore’s potential to win some of the biggest prizes in American college football.

The Oklahoma State running back, who grew up in Sherwood Park and attended Bev Facey Community High School, was recently named a semifinalist for two national football awards: the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Doak Walker Award.

Hubbard’s Division 1 school, which now promotes him as “Canada’s Cowboy,” has its eye on an even bigger prize: the Heisman Memorial Trophy. The Heisman honours the most outstanding college football player in the U.S.

Hundreds of electors, most of them members of the media, vote on the annual award and Hubbard’s name has been popping up on some sportswriters’ watch lists in recent weeks.

Fellow Canadians Wayne Gretzky and Howie Mandel have sung his praises as the “Hubbard for Heisman” hashtag gains traction on social media.

“I just wanted to pass along our congratulations from everyone in Edmonton,” Gretzky said last month in a video posted from the Edmonton Oilers’ Twitter account.

On Tuesday, during a conference call with reporters, Hubbard brushed away praise and comparisons to greats like Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders.

“It’s definitely humbling and a great feeling, but I don’t think I’m Barry Sanders or anything like that,” Hubbard said.

The Cowboys play the Sooners — rivals from the University of Oklahoma — on Saturday. With few games remaining in the regular season, this game is one of Hubbard’s last chances to earn an invitation to New York City for the Heisman gala on December 15. Finalists for the award will be announced December 9.

“If he can put on a significant show, I’m certain that still being the NCAA leader in rushing, he would get serious consideration for the Heisman,” said Tim Enger, executive director of Football Alberta.

Though Hubbard leads the league in rushing yard, that may not be enough to win over voters.

Only two of the past 10 Heisman winners have been running backs; the rest were quarterbacks.

“If [Hubbard] doesn’t get to cross that spot off his bucket list, it won’t be because he is unworthy,” Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist for The Oklahoman newspaper, wrote in a recent column.

“It will be because Heisman voters lost sight of what it means to be outstanding.”

Sportswriters have also been speculating about Hubbard’s potential in the 2020 NFL draft, but Hubbard said that isn’t his focus at the moment. 

“To be honest, I’m not really thinking about the draft and all that yet,” Hubbard told reporters.

“It’s kind of premature for me right now. I’m just focused on winning games.” 

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