By Scott Springer, Cincinnati Enquirer
A plethora of Greater Cincinnati high school football standouts have graced National Football League rosters in recent years with the NFC championship game featuring two of the area's finest.
Elder's Kyle Rudolph, tight end for the Minnesota Vikings will square off with La Salle's Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles. Another Greater Catholic League-South product will join the league soon as former Moeller and Ohio State player Sam Hubbard has declared for the upcoming NFL draft.
Hubbard, who has already graduated from OSU with a degree in finance, played his last game in the Buckeyes triumph over Southern Cal in the Cotton Bowl Dec. 29. With just three days off, he reported to EXOS Training in Carlsbad, California, Jan. 2 to prepare for the NFL Combine.
"It really, really felt good to go out like that," Hubbard said of the Cotton Bowl victory. "The defensive line had been playing together a long time. We kind of knew this was going to be our last go-round so we gave it our all. We ended up with eight sacks which was a Cotton Bowl record."
Based on his health, graduation, play and pro projections Hubbard elected to leave Columbus early. His financial expertise from his days in OSU's Fisher School of Business should also come in handy now and later in life. Dispelling the stereotypes of players leaving school, Hubbard achieved his degree in three and a half years, graduating cum laude as a First Team Academic All-American. His work ethic now continues out west.
"I'm working my butt off to prove my stock any way I can by having a good performance at Pro Day and the Combine," Hubbard said. "Obviously the goal is to get into that first round."
The defensive lineman is now 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, nearly 40 pounds lighter than when he arrived at Ohio State from Moeller. His Buckeye career began as an outside linebacker/tight end. Once his pass-rushing skill was noticed at linebacker, he was invited to the defensive line room and encouraged to eat full meals as a redshirt freshman.
That's a long way from his stint with Moeller on back-to-back state championship teams in 2012 and 2013. Back then, Hubbard was an exceedingly tall safety tormenting receivers in the secondary. He credits his defensive backfield skills for giving him the foot-speed to shrug off offensive linemen and chase down quarterbacks.
Hubbard's football development may not have happened had he been a one-dimensional athlete at Moeller. An accomplished lacrosse player, Sam Hubbard was committed to taking his stickwork to Notre Dame as a sophomore.
"It's a lot earlier recruiting process in lacrosse," Hubbard explained. "Most guys are committed by their sophomore year as rosters fill up. My brother went to Notre Dame and I thought that was a great fit for me."
Then, two things happened. After being part of the 2012 state football champions under then-coach John Rodenberg, he started to get college inquiries and opened up his recruitment for football.
The other can be credited to a spirited dodgeball game in Rodenberg's gym class. The fact that Urban Meyer and local Buckeye recruiting guru Kerry Coombs were watching added to the drama.
"He came into our gym class and we were playing dodgeball while he (Meyer) and Coach Coombs came in for their visit," Hubbard said. "They sat around watching me while they were talking to Coach Rodenberg and that's where it all started."
Soon he was on a visit and soon after he committed. Having grown up going to Buckeye games, the decision came quickly.
Also at Moeller during Hubbard's time as a Crusader was new head football coach Doug Rosfeld. He was offensive line and run-game coordinator for the back-to-back Crusader crowns and a former teacher of Hubbard's.
"He's just a true man of Moeller," Hubbard said. "I think he's going to do a great job. I'm still very close to Coach Rodenberg. What he did for me is just incredible and I wish him the best in his next step. I think Coach Rosfeld and Moeller are in a great spot right now."
Hubbard is currently enjoying the warm climate of the California coast as he works out twice a day. His professional weather setting is yet to be determined but he's most certainly going to be the next Moeller Crusader to get paid on the pro gridiron.
Most recently, Marcus Rush was a defensive end for Jacksonville in 2016 and is on the Broncos roster as a reserve. Other notable Crusaders in the NFL include former Moeller coach Bob Crable (New York Jets linebacker 1982-87), Tony Hunter (tight end with Buffalo, Rams 1983-86), Tom Waddle (Bears wide receiver 1984-91) and Steve Sylvester (Oakland offensive lineman 197-83). Sylvester played the most games of the group with 106.
Hubbard will find out his next zip code sometime between April 26-28.