Carolina Panthers take Canadian RB Chuba Hubbard in fourth round of 2021 NFL draft

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard blows a kiss to Oklahoma State fans after their 34-27 win over Iowa State in an NCAA college football game in Ames, Iowa, on Oct. 26, 2019. Canadian Chuba Hubbard will have a tough act to follow this season. His own. The 20-year-old native of Sherwood Park, Alta., was the NCAA rushing leader last season, running for 1,936 yards and 21 TDs. That left the Oklahoma State star eighth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, presented annually to American college football's top player. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Matthew Putney.

Chuba Hubbard’s patience was finally rewarded Saturday.

The Oklahoma State running back from Sherwood Park, Alta., was taken by the Carolina Panthers in the fourth round, No. 126 overall, of the NFL draft. Hubbard became the fourth Canadian drafted, tying the 2014 record for most Canucks picked.

And with Iowa tackle Alaric Jackson of Windsor, Ont., and Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga of Calgary both still on the board, there’s an opportunity for that mark to be eclipsed.

“It just shows there’s a lot of hidden gems across the border,” Hubbard said during a Panthers’ Zoom call Saturday. “The fact that you see a lot of guys from Canada, so many of my friends, so many guys that I know, make their dreams come true and achieve all of these things, it’s great.

“It’s a special feeling. I hope that this shows that younger guys from Canada and really all over, they can do the same thing. We just continue to create this pipeline from Canada to the States for football and really all other sports.”

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READ MORE: Sherwood Park’s Chuba Hubbard waiting to hear name called at 2021 NFL draft

Hubbard became the first Canadian running back taken in the NFL draft since Carolina selected Montreal’s Tim Biakabutuka in the opening round in 1996.

But Hubbard had to wait two days in order to hear his name called. The first-round selections were made Thursday night, followed by the second and third rounds Friday.

Three Canadians were taken Friday night.

Oregon safety Jevon Holland, of Coquitlam, B.C., went in the second round, No. 36 overall, to the Miami Dolphins. Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, of Montreal, and Tennessee receiver Josh Palmer, of Brampton, Ont., were taken in the third round by Washington and the L.A. Chargers, respectively.

Click to play video: 'Chuba Hubbard’s parents cheer him on from Sherwood park home' Chuba Hubbard’s parents cheer him on from Sherwood park home
Chuba Hubbard’s parents cheer him on from Sherwood park home – Nov 28, 2018

The six-foot, 208-pound Hubbard ran for 625 yards (4.7-yard average) and five touchdowns last season. After missing two games with a high ankle sprain, he decided to opt out of the remainder of the ’20 campaign and declare for the draft.

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It wasn’t the ending Hubbard envisioned when he decided to remain in school after leading American university football with 2,094 yards rushing (6.4-yard average) and 21 TDs in 2019.

“It (2020) was a period to get better, become a better person, better leader, better football player,” Hubbard said. “That’s really what this year has been ? I just look at it as a year of learning and growth, that’s how I’ve taken it.”

READ MORE: Sherwood Park’s Chuba Hubbard produces solid workout in front of scouts ahead of NFL draft

Hubbard proved earlier this month at Oklahoma State’s pro day he’s healthy again, posting an official 40-yard dash time of 4.48 seconds although some social media reports had him running under 4.40 seconds.

He also registered a 36-inch vertical jump, 4.26-second short shuttle and 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

Hubbard will provide depth behind starting running back Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 1,387 yards in 2019.

“I know I definitely need to work on my pass protection,” Hubbard said. “In regards to the passing game, I definitely feel I can be a threat there, a weapon there.

“Obviously Christian McCaffrey does a lot of work there and I think I model a lot of my stuff when it comes to catching the ball after him. I have a big chip on my shoulder. I promise (the Panthers) are going to get the best out of me.”

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READ MORE: Chuba Hubbard’s high school coach says NCAA football star is type to step up and lead

In fact, Hubbard said he grew up a Panthers fan and cheered for the team in its 24-10 Super Bowl loss to Denver on Feb. 7, 2016.

“I grew up a big Cam Newton fan,” Hubbard said. “Going into the Super Bowl against the Broncos, I was really hoping the Panthers were going to win, I’m not going to lie.

“I’m forever fortunate enough, forever blessed to be chosen by them.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta NCAA football player Chuba Hubbard on COVID-19’s impact' Alberta NCAA football player Chuba Hubbard on COVID-19’s impact
Alberta NCAA football player Chuba Hubbard on COVID-19’s impact – May 6, 2020

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