Sam Hubbard stepped forward and attacked the blocking sled last week during Ohio State’s senior tackle, a ceremony symbolic of a Buckeye playing in his last game against Michigan.
But on Tuesday the fourth-year junior said don’t read anything into it — at least not yet.
“It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” the defensive end said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next year. … It’s totally up in the air (whether Hubbard will declare for the NFL draft after the season). I’m just focusing on winning the Big Ten championship.”
That game is Saturday night in Indianapolis against unbeaten Wisconsin, which was No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, with Ohio State up one spot to No. 8. Obviously a lot is riding on the game, including a potential spot in the playoff, which was why Hubbard was keeping any personal plans to himself.
“I just want to win the Big Ten championship,” he reiterated. “No decision has been made.”
If this is his final season with the Buckeyes and that was his last game against Michigan, he made it one to remember. He was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week for his effort that included 2½ sacks and causing a fumble.
Deeper into his effort, on one two-play sequence he chased a runner out of bounds down the field and then rushed in to make a sack.
“Every play I just try to do the right thing, and obviously you’re trying to change the game, make a big play,” Hubbard said. “But doing my job and letting the big plays come to me is something I’ve learned to do, not chasing big plays.”
Yet it seemed he was all over the field chasing the action against the Wolverines.
“That was a special moment,” Hubbard said. “I’ve been watching that rivalry since I was a little kid. I was just so thankful to have played so well. And to go out against Michigan 4-0 (including his true freshman season when he was redshirted) is a blessing. I couldn’t be happier.”
Also Tuesday, he was named second team all-Big Ten, with his defensive end teammates Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa bring named to the first team.
“He's just an energizer,” coach Urban Meyer said of Hubbard this week. “He knows one speed. And that is, you turn him on and he goes. And he's one of my all-time favorite players.”
With that in mind, Meyer let Hubbard make that run at the blocking sled, though Hubbard was not introduced with the last-year players on senior day against Illinois.
“I don't want to start a precedent,” Meyer said. “He's been a three-year starter (graduating in December). … We talked about it, and he wanted to go through senior tackle. And that's his call.”
When asked if the door is open for Hubbard to return next season, though, Meyer smiled and said, “Our door?” and held his hands wide apart.
But just as Hubbard said, Meyer pointed out that’s a conversation for another day.
“Let's go beat Wisconsin,” Meyer said.
Toward that goal, Hubbard is on board.
“I just want to win a Big Ten championship,” he said. “That’s the only thing on my mind right now.”
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