Sam Hubbard was engrossed in a dodgeball game during his high school gym class when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer walked through the door. A lot of heads turned Bryce Callahan Jersey , including his.And his sports career took a very different turn.|
Hubbard doesn’t recall anything about the dodgeball game, other than the unexpected visit that changed so much. Hubbard went from an aspiring Notre Dame lacrosse player to a Buckeye football star and now a draft pick for his hometown team, the Cincinnati Bengals .
”I’ve had a winding journey to get here, and a lot of fun stories,” the third-round pick said Friday as rookie camp opened.
The 6-foot-5 defensive end was committed to playing lacrosse for Notre Dame – he was a midfielder on Moeller High School’s team – when Meyer showed up at gym class during his junior year. Hubbard also was a safety on the football team. Meyer was on a routine recruiting trip to see several prospects, and Hubbard’s gym teacher was Moeller’s football coach.
”Everyone in class was staring,” Hubbard said. ”To have Urban Meyer walk into your class was unexpected.”
Hubbard’s coach mentioned him as a potential Buckeye. Meyer watched Moeller’s game film and took note of him along with the others. Eventually, Ohio State offered a football scholarship and Hubbard changed paths, heading two hours up the road to Columbus instead of South Bend.
There were several more unexpected changes ahead.
The Buckeyes tried him at linebacker and tight end before deciding he’d be best as a defensive end, a position he’d never played. Hubbard was totally out of his element, but grew into the position, adding weight while learning what it takes to tackle an elusive running back and take down a quarterback.
He’d hoped to get drafted by the Bengals, but thought there was little chance of things working out so perfectly. That might have been the biggest surprise of all.
On Friday Malik Hooker Jersey , he walked into their football-shaped locker room, heading past Andy Dalton’s locker on the right and Carlos Dunlap’s on the left, to find the one with his name and No. 94. Then he was off to an adjoining practice field, a short trek that felt surreal after all those years rooting for the Bengals.
”It’s insane,” he said. ”To come in here and see the locker, the helmet, to put on the jersey and go out on the field – it was a special moment.”
He’ll get a chance to work his way into the Bengals’ defensive line rotation as a rookie and become part of those big rivalry games he followed so closely as a youth – Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are on the schedule in four months.
Chase Big Ben around the field?
”Ha!” he said. ”I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but that’s obviously the end goal. I’ve got to learn the playbook first and make a good first impression.”
Hubbard knows the franchise’s history of futility as well as anyone. The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was the 1990 season, five years before he was born. He attended Bengals games regularly as a youth. He knows about their run of five straight first-round losses from 2011-15, an NFL record for playoff futility.
Hubbard was in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium for one of their worst moments. Carson Palmer tore ligaments in his left knee when he was hit on his first pass against the Steelers on Jan. 8, 2006. Pittsburgh pulled away to a 31-17 win in the opening-round playoff game.
”That one’s burned in my head,” he said.
DRAFT PICK SIGNINGS
The Bengals signed four of their 11 draft picks at the start of rookie camp: fifth-round picks CB Davontae Harris and DT Andrew Brown, and seventh-round picks QB Logan Woodside and G Rod Taylor.
COME ON DOWN
The Bengals also signed 10 undrafted free agents for rookie camp: WR Devonte Boyd Lamarcus Joyner Jersey , Nevada-Las Vegas; DE Gaelin Elmore, East Carolina; OT Austin Fleer, Colorado Mesa; RB Quinton Flowers, South Florida; TE Jordan Franks, Central Florida; S Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii; LB Junior Joseph, Connecticut; RB Ray Lawry, Old Dominion; DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State; and LB Chris Worley, Ohio State.
The Jets decided it was time for Mo to go.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was released by New York on Wednesday, ending the one-time Pro Bowl selection’s stint with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2011.
The long-anticipated move clears $11 million in space under the salary cap, although there will still be a $9 million charge in dead money that will count against the cap. Wilkerson was due to make $16.75 million next season – which would have become fully guaranteed if he remained on New York’s roster by the third day of the league’s new year in March.
Coupled with running back Matt Forte’s retirement announcement earlier Wednesday, the Jets now have about $90 million in cap space.
”I’m disappointed for the team John Johnson Jersey , I’m disappointed for him,” coach Todd Bowles told reporters at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. ”Obviously, it didn’t work out. I have a lot of love for Mo. I still think he’s got a lot of football ahead of him.”
But that won’t be in New York with the Jets.
It became increasingly clearer late in the season that the 28-year-old Wilkerson’s time with the Jets was coming to an end. He was benched at New Orleans on Dec. 17 for being late to a team meeting. Wilkerson then sat out the final two games for what Bowles called a ”coach’s decision.”
The $16.75 million was also fully guaranteed against a serious injury, so the Jets would have been on the hook if Wilkerson got hurt during a game or practice and the injury sidelined him all of next season.
”It was a business decision,” Bowles said about the move to release Wilkerson. ”It wasn’t disciplinary at all. It was good for both parties.”
Wilkerson was the Jets’ highest-paid player and was in the middle of a five-year deal worth $86 million. After vowing during training camp last summer that he would be more of a leader for the Jets, he was disciplined for tardiness twice this past season. He was also benched for one quarter of a game in each of the past two seasons.
”I think when you sign a player, you think of the potential he has and you try to help him fulfill that,” general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters at the combine. ”When something doesn’t work out, you wish it would have, but it didn’t.”
The divorce caps what has been a stunning and disappointing fall from grace for Wilkerson, who was a homegrown kid from the Elizabeth and Linden areas of New Jersey and made it big after a terrific college career at Temple.
He was the 30th overall pick in 2011 and steadily became one of the NFL’s top young defensive ends. Wilkerson made his first Pro Bowl after the 2015 season, but didn’t play in it after breaking his right leg in the Jets’ regular-season finale.
Despite that, Wilkerson was rewarded by New York with the big contract. He returned in time to start in Week 1 in 2016 Daryl Johnston Jersey , but was noticeably affected by lingering issues in his right ankle.
Wilkerson then got off to a slow start in 2017 while dealing with shoulder and toe injuries. The off-field issues became magnified with the decline in Wilkerson’s play and the one-time fan favorite was knocked by many fans and media for what was being perceived as a subpar work ethic.
He had just eight sacks in his last 28 games, dating to the start of the 2016 season, including 3 this past season – his lowest total since having three in his rookie season. That came after Wilkerson had a career-high 12 sacks in 2015.
Wilkerson expressed remorse for his actions in December, saying that he ”let the team down.” But he was also defiant when asked if he deserved the $37 million he made during the last two years.
”I feel like I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten,” he said. When asked why he felt that way, Wilkerson replied simply: ”Because I feel like I’ve earned it.”
For his career, Wilkerson has 44 1/2 sacks, one safety, 10 forced fumbles and 405 combined tackles.
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