NC State's Chubb named best defensive player in college football
Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 5, after Bradley Chubb won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, as the nation’s top defensive player.
Bradley Chubb likes just about everything. You have to work to find something he doesn’t like.
A good joke, even at his expense? No doubt.
What about Shakespeare?
“Not at all,” Chubb said.
Too bad. The Bard would have appreciated the gregarious personality of the star N.C. State defensive end and the zeal he has for his craft.
Chubb turned in a season for the ages in 2017. He led the ACC in sacks (10), ranked second in the country in tackles for loss (26) and he became the first N.C. State player to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the award given to the country’s top defensive player.
Chubb, an oversized imp at 6-4 and 275 pounds, was also the unofficial league-leader in towels stolen and celebratory dances. There is a Shakespearean spirit to Chubb’s drive for excellence. What’s in a name? Shakespeare asked that in “Romeo and Juliet” more than 400 years ago.
For Chubb, the answer is everything.
The way Chubb remembers it, he was still in elementary school. His brother, Brandon, older by three years, was a terror in what they call “pound” football in northwest Georgia.
Every time Brandon, who would go on to be a star linebacker at Wake Forest, would make a tackle, his name would get called over the loud-speaker at the rec field in Powder Springs.
“That’s what I always wanted,” Chubb said.
There is a power to that surname in Georgia in football and beyond. Start with football: Chubb’s dad, Aaron, was a standout defensive end and linebacker at the University of Georgia from 1985 through 1988 and was drafted by the New England Patriots.
Aaron Chubb’s older cousin, Henry, played at Valdosta State in the 1980s. Henry’s son, Nick, is currently a star running back at Georgia.
But long before football there was Chubbtown. In about 1861, eight Chubb brothers started their own incorporated, self-sufficient farming community outside of Cave Spring, Ga., near the Alabama border.
You think getting to the quarterback is tough business? How about settling and running your own community as free black men in the antebellum South?
“It was amazing what they were able to accomplish,” Chubb said.
There’s still a church in Chubbtown and the family is still close. Chubb first visited the home of his ancestors his senior year at Hillgrove High, after his grandfather died and was buried there.
Making his own name
Given the choice, Chubb probably would have stayed home and played for the Bulldogs. His parents are both UGa grads. After Chubb suffered an ACL injury in his junior season of high school, the Bulldogs didn’t show much interest.
At Hillgrove High School, Chubb only had about 225 pounds on his 6-4 frame (he’s 275 now) and was rated as three-star prospect, No. 733 in the class by 247Sports.
This is why N.C. State coach Dave Doeren calls Chubb the “epitome of hard work.” Unheralded and overlooked, Chubb has become N.C. State’s career leader in sacks (26) and tackles for loss (60). He broke legendary defensive end Mario Williams’ school marks in both categories on his way to becoming the ACC defensive player of the year.
Chubb is only the second N.C. State player to win that ACC award (linebacker Levar Fisher in 2000 was the other).
“This isn’t a guy that was a five-star guy, this is a guy who made himself into one,” Doeren said.
Chubb almost never got to N.C. State. He could have gone to Wake Forest, where Brandon became an All-ACC linebacker.
“He was basically a Wake season-ticket holder,” Brandon said.
As much as Chubb wanted to be like his dad or his brother, he wanted to make his own name.
“My dad set the bar high,” Brandon said. “We had to live up to the name. There’s a pride that comes with the name.”
Chubb took notes while his brother led the Demon Deacons with 107 tackles in 2015.
“He was in on every play,” Chubb said. “I always wanted to match that.”
Wake actually recruited Chubb and might have had him under different circumstances.
“He has a classic ‘little brother’ complex,” Brandon said. “He was treated like ‘Chubb No. 2’ in high school.
“He wanted to be like us, but Brad likes to make his own decisions. He doesn’t respond well when you give him one option.”
A big softie
N.C. State gave Chubb another option. Former assistants Ryan Nielsen and Frisman Jackson weren’t scared off by the knee injury or the low recruiting ranking.
It also helped that Justin Jones, also from Cobb County, and Chubb were good friends and decided they wanted to go to college together. There is a good story about Jones, who was the more sought-after prospect, confusing N.C. State and UNC.
Chubb wanted to visit N.C. State (they were both pursued by Duke as well). Jones wasn’t sure about which college in the Triangle Chubb meant.
“He was like, the blue team?” Chubb said. “The one Michael Jordan went to?”
Chubb and Jones have been mainstays on the Wolfpack defensive line since the 2015 season.
If anyone on the team can give Chubb a hard time, it’s Jones. The two have been friends, and trained together, since eighth grade.
“On the field, he’s a time bomb with a short fuse,” Jones said of Chubb. “He’s the spark that lights everybody up and gets them going.”
And off the field?
“He’s kind of soft,” Jones said with a smirk.
Those sound like fighting words, but they aren’t. In a sport that takes itself way too seriously, Chubb does not.
“Everybody has a sweet side to them,” Chubb said. “I think I have a good balance of turning it on and off when I need to.”
Chubb made national headlines when he stole Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s towel three different times during the first half of the Wolfpack’s 38-31 loss to the Tigers on Nov. 4.
Two days later, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was taking a playful jab at Chubb, and Clemson fans were sending Chubb towels.
Chubb rode around campus for a week with a purple Clemson towel. One of his friends even posted a video on Twitter making fun of Chubb for stealing towels.
“If you hang out with him for a day, you’d realize he’s the class clown,” junior running back Nyheim Hines said.
Return about to payoff
There’s also the matter of football. Chubb has been at his best in N.C. State’s best wins. He had two sacks in the win over Florida State, two tackles for loss and a blocked extra point against Louisville and two and a half sacks against Boston College.
Chubb could have gone to the NFL after his junior season. He got a first- or second-round grade in his evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board last December. He could have jumped early and been fine. Safety Josh Jones went through the same process last year and he was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers.
But Chubb figured there was more work at N.C. State to be done. And, with the right kind of season, more money to be made if he could move up the draft board.
“He bet on himself,” Brandon said. “And it worked out great for him.”
Chubb is now projected to go in the top 10 and be one of the first non-quarterbacks to be taken in next year’s draft.
Room for fun
With the big plays and big numbers, there has still been room for fun. If you can’t have fun, why play the game?
There was the flop against Syracuse, which drew a penalty on the Orange in a 33-25 Wolfpack win on Sept. 30.
“Flop? I don’t know, I was pushed,” Chubb deadpans.
And there was a mini-controversy about Chubb spitting on Florida State’s logo after a 27-21 Wolfpack win in Tallahassee on Sept. 23.
“I had something in my mouth,” Chubb attempts to say with a straight face.
He wears one patch of eye black, always under his left eye. Why?
“I want to do something on my own,” he said.
Also the first time he did it, before the Louisville game in 2015, he got his first career sack.
There was also the time, now immortalized with a life-sized cardboard cutout of him at N.C. State basketball games, when Chubb celebrated a win at UNC last year by putting a piece of the shrub at Kenan Stadium in his mouth.
And there’s his sack dance, not to be confused with his breakdance efforts after a win at Boston College on Nov. 11 or his regular celebratory sideline jig.
Before the season, Chubb’s cousin Monty Mitchell sent him some YouTube clips of the “paper chase” a popular dance in Memphis.
The dance is part jump rope, part Charleston and part crip walk. Chubb liked it and has made it his own.
“If you know me personally, you know who I am,” Chubb said. “I’m about having fun.”
Maybe Shakespeare had it wrong. A Chubb by any other name wouldn’t be as fun or so good.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio