There was a time when few probably thought John Hubert would be where he is today — among the best running backs in Kansas State history.
(Kansas State’s John Hubert stiff-arms Michigan’s Raymon Taylor in the first half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. Hubert rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown in the game, pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark this season).
Hubert won the starting job three years ago — a spot many assumed would go to Bryce Brown, a high-profile running back from Wichita who transferred to K-State after his freshman season at Tennessee.
Brown’s time at K-State proved to be nothing more than a footnote in history, lasting just a few games before ultimately quitting the team before he even played in a Big 12 game.
“My sophomore year, we had Bryce (Brown) and (Angelo) Pease coming in and we were all fighting for the spot,” Hubert said. “I felt like since I had been here longer, I wasn’t going out without a fight. When they came in, I knew I had to buckle down, get stronger and get faster and be more aggressive and that’s what I did.”
And three years later, the Waco, Texas, native has wrapped up his career as K-State’s second-leading rusher with 2,993 yards, second only to Darren Sproles.
“Darren Sproles, he’s great, broke all the records here that K-State ever had and just to be mentioned with him, just to be behind him is a blessing,” said Hubert, who is sixth in K-State history with 27-career rushing touchdowns. “I’m just grateful to Coach Snyder for giving me the opportunity to play here. I just tried to do the best I could.”
This past Saturday night, Hubert capped his run as a three-year starter with his first 1,000-yard season and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ 31-14 win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Hubert carried the ball 16 times for 80 yards in a victory that capped the greatest single-season turnaround in school history. The Wildcats became just the eighth school in the BCS era to win eight games after starting a season 2-4.
“I’ve been wanting this the last three years, as well as a bowl victory, and to accomplish both on the same day is special,” Hubert said. “I feel blessed — we, as a team, accomplished these goals.”
Hubert came up 30 yards short of 1,000 yards in 2011 and 53 yards short last season.
“He’s been so close the last couple years, frustrated, so this is great,” K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “I’m glad he was able to finish the season on a positive note. I would have hated to come up short a third a year in a row.”
Hubert is K-State’s fourth 1,000-yard rusher in the last five seasons — leading the team the past two seasons and finishing this season with 1,048 yards.
The 5-foot-7, 191-pound running back needed 32 yards on Saturday to reach the milestone — an accomplishment that was also important to the guys blocking for Hubert all season.
“It means a lot to me,” K-State center B.J. Finney said. “In the first quarter, I went up to him said ‘you have 32 yards, so now lets pile it on and get 1,100.’ It means a lot to us as an offensive line.”
Hubert capped his career with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:25 to play in the game. The senior had a 6-yard carry to get the Wildcats to the 1, following a 51-yard interception return by Dante Barnett.
Finney said there was no doubt who was getting the ball at the goal line.
“He got us down there to the 6-inch line, so we wanted to give it back to him so he could cap off his career,” he said. “We all wanted John to have it.”
Now, the question is who replaces Hubert in the backfield? The position is up for grabs, ending a five-year run that included just two starting running backs, including Daniel Thomas, who started the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The favorite would have to be former Wichita Northwest standout DeMarcus Robinson, who served as the team’s third-string back this season, also behind senior Robert Rose. Robinson, a former four-star recruit, will be a senior next season. Also figuring into the mix should be redshirt-freshmen Jarvis Leverett (Katy, Texas) and Charles Jones (Mandeville, La.).
“You have DeMarcus Robinson, Charles Jones, Jarvis Leverett — all three of those guys can play,” Hubert said. “They’re strong… They have half of the offensive line coming back, so they’ll do great.”
As far as Hubert, he now will turn his focus to the NFL draft. Currently, CBSSports.com has Hubert ranked as the 47th best draft prospect at his position. For what its worth, Tim Flanders, who came to K-State in the same class as Hubert and later transferred to Sam Houston State after redshirting in 2009, is ranked as the 21st best running back prospect.
“I’m going to rest for a week or so, heal up some, then go train and come back for pro day and see what’s next for me,” Hubert said. “Hopefully God has blessed me to be able to play at the next level.”