A year ago at this time, Kansas State running back John Hubert was the running back nobody really wanted. In the public’s mind, he should have been third string, maybe being asked to come in for some mop-up carries or at least be allowed to carry Bryce Brown’s cleats. Maybe.
Hubert was too slow. Too ordinary. Too “not Bryce.”
So, it was with disbelieving eyes that program supporters watched Hubert’s name climb out of a three-way competition/rotation (between Hubert, Brown and Angelo Pease) that really never was one to top the depth chart. It was with disbelieving ears that folks listened to head coach Bill Snyder sing praises (or at least acknowledge) over boring qualities like work ethic and attitude.
And, as Hubert’s steady presence churned out needed yards or saved quarterback Collin Klein’s life a few times with his ability to pass protect, he slowly earned enough respect that, by midyear, KSU people at least grudgingly accepted that he was their starting back.
A lot of minds were changed during the Missouri game.
On a third-quarter 1st-and-10 just inside the Tigers 20, Klein took the snap, turned to his left and handed the ball to Hubert, who, in one instant, pulled off a spin move that no combination of keypad, turbo or old-fashioned B-button could duplicate; the kind of move that would have made old-school MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice jealous.
The play (start at the video’s 4:00 mark), good for 17 yards and a later touchdown that pushed KSU’s lead at that point to 17-3, was the kind of move that Hubert himself likes to watch… over and over again.
“Yeah, I’ll YouTube myself sometimes,” Hubert said smiling. “But, throughout the [Vanier] complex, you have all the games coming on, so I see it virtually every day.”
And does he stop to watch it every time he notices on a screen?
“Yeah. Yeah, I do,” Hubert said, smiling more broadly.
And does it look better every time?
“Yeah, it actually looks good,” he said, laughing.
That’s not to say Hubert is some egomaniac. He certainly is not. Instead, call it a deserved, personal mini-reward for an under-the-radar 2011 campaign — 970 yards (seventh in the Big 12) and 3 TD on 200 carries. His sophomore production earned the 5-7, 191-lb ball carrier a preseason All-Big 12 nod from Phil Steele as well as being listed as a Doak Walker Award candidate.
He has expectations now, as does the team. Those facts are not lost on the junior back, whose countenance was only serious when asked how he and his team are preparing for the 2012 challenge of balancing rankings that range from Sporting News picking K-State No. 6 to being picked sixth in the Big 12.
Maybe it’s his personal taste for motivation, or it may just be easy for him to keep a certain mindset considering where things were only one year ago, but Hubert appears to be okay with just playing one side of the coin.
“We like being the underdogs. We like being the team that’s not on the radar,” Hubert said, referring to the Big 12 slotting. “So, like last year, we just have to go out and prove a lot of people wrong again. Do what we’re capable of doing. A lot of starters came back, so we’re going to be very good on both sides of the ball. We’re very deep.
“So, we just have to go out and just perform, and just prove a lot of people wrong like we always do.”