If Bradley Chubb is smart, he has stolen his last towel. At the college level, at least.
Rated as the top defensive end available in next spring's NFL draft by nearly every draftnik and analyst, there's nothing to be gained by the N.C. State senior playing in the Wolfpack's bowl game and millions of dollars to potentially lose.
If N.C. State were part of the College Football Playoff or in the Orange Bowl, there would still be more than enough on the line to make the risk of injury worth it for Chubb. But risking his future NFL earnings to play Arizona State in the Sun Bowl doesn't make any sense.
Rated by some as the top pass-rushing prospect in the draft and a top-five pick in many mock drafts, Chubb's gamble to come back for his senior season has paid off handsomely. He polished his resume and N.C. State got everything it could ever ask out of the ACC's defensive player of the year. Chubb wouldn't be letting his teammates down if he passed on the Sun Bowl; he's given them everything he had -- in terms of effort, production and towels swiped from opposing quarterbacks -- to get them this far.
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On a conference call Sunday, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said Chubb hadn't yet made a decision, but that he met with Chubb and his family. On Twitter that day, Chubb tweeted that he was excited about spending Christmas in Florida, only to append a hasty “*El Paso” when the Wolfpack slid down the ACC's bowl order.
There shouldn't be much of a debate. The danger to Chubb's potential pro career far outweighs whatever benefit there would be from playing, as was the case for Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, who sat out the Sun Bowl against North Carolina last season.
McCaffrey and LSU's Leonard Fournette were the most high-profile prospects to skip their teams' bowl games last season, and it's a trend that should accelerate this year for players whose teams aren't in the top tier of bowls.
Chubb is the prime example of a player with more to lose than gain by playing; NFL scouts have seen enough of him, his teammates have gotten everything out of him, he gave N.C. State his senior season when he could have turned pro last year and a Sun Bowl victory isn't going to occupy a prominent place on his trophy shelf.
If he decides to play, that's fine. It's his choice. He'll understand the risks, and there's certainly nothing wrong with finishing his college career on the field. It's a smarter long-term move to sit this one out, and that shouldn't be held against Chubb by his teammates or N.C. State fans if he does.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock