Long time coming

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoWhen Paul Hubbard Jr. got up Sunday, pulling on brown pants and a brown-and-orange shirt, he knew it was going to be a good day. His son, Paul Hubbard III, a former Wisconsin wide receiver, wasn’t as sure.As expected, a day of the NFL Draft had passed, and his name wasn’t called. With more than 20 friends and family basically living next to the TV for the weekend to watch the results of the draft, Hubbard didn’t want to disappoint on Day 2.Situated in a beige leather recliner at the center of the U-shaped seating arrangement around the big-screen TV in his father’s living room in Colorado Springs, Colo., Hubbard watched Round 3 come and go with no call. Round 4 came and went. Same thing; no call. With the anxiety building with each selection, Hubbard finally could not take watching anymore and went upstairs midway through the fifth round.His father, who had been going in and out of the house making sure the guests were well fed and entertained, noticed that the recliner was empty. Hubbard Jr. searched the house and found Hubbard lying on the bed in his younger brother Steven’s room.“Pops, I’m not going to get drafted,” said Hubbard, letting his emotions get the better of his judgment.With the same conviction and positive reinforcement he has grown accustomed to using when his son gets down on himself, Hubbard Jr. said, “Listen, Paul, it’s going to come. Your name’s going to be called. Just be patient.”He continued, saying this is Hubbard’s chance to go out there and prove to the people who didn’t select you that they should have. Having that chip on your shoulder is a good thing.Hubbard Jr. came back upstairs a short time later to say the meal was ready. Needing to take Steven, 16, to his basketball game, he knew he would be gone for Hubbard’s big moment. Before leaving, he congratulated his son. The first years of collegeA gifted athlete, Hubbard wanted to take his abilities to the next level in track and football.On the track, Hubbard made everything look easy. Nicknamed “Spiderman” for his leaping abilities, Hubbard won the 2003 and 2004 Indoor and Outdoor Big Ten Conference titles in the long jump — 24-4 1/4 indoor and 24-5 1/2 outdoor — and placed fourth in the indoor triple jump.On the field, however, Hubbard wasn’t given a chance. Stuck behind eventual NFL draft picks Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr, Hubbard saw little action in his first three years with the football team (he redshirted in 2003), and it was frustrating. He caught just one pass for four yards and made one tackle. “When I wasn’t seeing the time then, I was like, ‘Man, why am I wasting my time when I could be out in track and field doing good things to help out the program,’” Hubbard said.As always, his father recognized Hubbard’s need for some guidance. So he sat his son down and had a talk.“Look, everyone falls short at times, but as long as you stay focused and dedicated, you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” the elder Hubbard said.His son listened.The following year, in 2006, Hubbard earned a starting spot on new head coach Bret Bielema’s team. His productivity didn’t stop there, as he led all UW receivers with 627 yards and five touchdowns on 38 catches.Things don’t go as plannedSenior year, your last chance to prove to the world what you can do, Hubbard remembers thinking to himself.The 2007 season didn’t start out the way it was supposed to. Wisconsin struggled against Washington State in a season-opening win and found itself trailing by one, 10-9, midway through the third quarter in Week 2 against UNLV.Sticking to the ground game because the aerial attack wasn’t there, running back P.J. Hill took the ball and ran it to the right side near UW’s 20-yard line. Hubbard, as the wide receiver on the strong side, went downfield to block. The play ended up on top of Hubbard, who felt an immediate pain in his right knee.Initially, Hubbard thought his UW career was over. It turned out to be just an MCL strain, and rest, not surgery, was the best cure. Still, six-to-eight weeks seemed like an eternity, and Hubbard couldn’t stop thinking about how the injury put his draft status in jeopardy.“I was putting all my eggs in one basket at the time,” Hubbard said.After the initial panic, the patient and focused side that his father had instilled in him took over. And with the reassuring support of his family, teammates and friends, Hubbard recovered in five weeks.“I think in life you’ve got to deal with what’s given to you, and I think Hubbard has done a great job with that,” said former Wisconsin wide receiver Luke Swan the week before Hubbard returned to the lineup against Northern Illinois.In the game, Hubbard made one catch for 14 yards.Senior DayThe Wolverines were in town, and Wisconsin needed to beat them to salvage what had been a disappointing season. A victory would make the senior class being honored before the game the winningest in program history. For Hubbard Jr., that final home game was the first time he watched his son play for the Badgers in person. Waiting at midfield with the rest of the parents and family members who had sons suiting up for the final time at Camp Randall, Hubbard Jr. felt truly special. And when he and son finally embraced, it was the one of the greatest moments of his life.“I finally realized at that moment, here I am with my son who’s a senior in college, and it really donned on me what I have accomplished with him,” Hubbard Jr. said. “All the talking and coaching and motivation paid off.”Inspired by his dad’s presence, Hubbard put together a career day, catching seven balls, a couple of which were one-handed, for 134 yards.“It was like he was wearing webs,” the elder Hubbard said.Patience pays offA short time after the elder Hubbard had left, the phone rang.Hubbard picked it up from his recliner and answered. He had been drafted; 191st overall by the Cleveland Browns. Orange and brown were his new colors — the very same his father was wearing that day.When a smile spread across his face, everyone else in the room whipped out their cameras and started moving about with excitement. Hugs were exchanged, cheers rang out, and the weight of the weekend for Hubbard seemed to melt away.“When I finally got the phone call from Phil Savage of the Cleveland Browns, I was very relieved,” Hubbard said. “I feel like a lot of stress was lifted off my shoulders. It has been a long time coming.”Hubbard tries not to think about how his weekend might have been different if he hadn’t suffered that injury. For him at least, when his name flashed across the TV screen, “wide receiver from Wisconsin selected by the Cleveland Browns,” all the problems and worry of the past were erased.last_img

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