CFL Pass

The Canadian Cowboy raised the bar for running backs in 2019

Canadian Chuba Hubbard took a rest, then went after one of the few rushing marks he hadn’t already achieved with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The 20-year-old running back from Sherwood Park, Alta. became just the second player in OSU history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, in Friday’s 24-21 loss to Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.

The all-American, who finished the regular season as the leading rusher in college football, carried the ball 19 times for 158 yards to reach 2,094. Barry Sanders, who ran for an NCAA-record 2,628 yards and won the Heisman Trophy in 1988, is the only other Oklahoma State player to reach the milestone.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer tweeted congratulations to Hubbard, adding: “I know the effort it takes to get there.”

Hubbard set the standard at the college level in a year when Canadian running backs stood out.

In the CFL, Winnipeg-born Andrew Harris led the Blue Bombers to their first Grey Cup victory since 1990. After leading the league in rushing yards for a record third straight season, he became the first player ever to be voted both MVP and top Canadian in the big game.

His Grey Cup performance was one for the ages: 18 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown, plus five catches for 35 yards and another major.

“I’m so proud to be a Winnipegger and I can’t wait to get back and share this with all them,” he told reporters after the 33-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Calgary. “I just wanted to prove it to my teammates and deliver for them. Everything else, whatever. I just wanted to be the best player I could be today.”

Hubbard took his turn in the big game spotlight after catching a bit of a break. The Cowboys finished their regular season a month before the Texas Bowl, and the running back took limited reps in practice in the interim after a physical campaign in which he’d led the nation in rushing yards with 1,936 and was third in the conference in carries with 309.

“There’s definitely a point where my body was … fatigued a little bit,” Hubbard said this month. “It had some wear and tear on it. These last few weeks have been good for me just to rest my body.”

He’s still undecided about entering the NFL draft in April — but not about his love of the NHL. Just before Christmas, the Edmonton Oilers invited him to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I’ve watched plenty of Oilers games, but I’ve never had a chance to go,” he told reporters at the Dec. 20 game. “I wanted to see them really bad.”

After reaching the 2,000-yard mark, he was asked what the feat means to him.

“I made a lot of bonds with these guys,” he said. “Relationships last a lifetime — 2,000 yards is just a number, but those friendships and bonds I’ve made will last forever.”

As for deciding between a shot at the NFL or returning to Oklahoma State for another year?

“There’s a lot that factors into it,” Hubbard said Friday. “I’ll have to talk with my family and friends and get all the resources. In two weeks, you guys will find out.”

Despite his success, Hubbard didn’t make the four-player shortlist for the Heisman. Harris, meanwhile, wasn’t a finalist for any of the CFL’s regular-season awards in a year when he drew a two-game suspension for violating the league drug policy in July.

Special teams player Mike Miller was the Bombers’ nominee for top Canadian, then issued a statement: “I will accept the Canadian nomination on Andrew’s behalf, but do so reluctantly and while completely disagreeing with his omission.”

Some CFL voters said later that the positive drug test compelled them to take a pass on Harris, while others felt he’d paid his dues and deserved to be recognized.

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