CHARLOTTE – No one would be surprised to hear that Browns running back Nick Chubb was on Thomas Davis’ radar before Chubb recorded a single carry at Davis’ beloved University of Georgia.
But how did fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly know about Chubb?
Two words: Thomas Davis.
“Obviously with Thomas being a big Georgia fan, we always heard about Nick Chubb,” said Kuechly, who will team with Davis on Sunday to try to slow the rookie sensation. “Thomas showed me a picture of him a couple of years ago when he was coming out of high school and he told me, ‘Look at this guy that Georgia’s got.’
“It’s kind of funny that now we get to play him.”
It’s also quite a picture.
“It was a picture on my phone that someone sent me saying, ‘Hey, this is the running back that Georgia just signed.’ It was of Nick Chubb getting ready to run track,” Davis said. “He was freaking yolked up. I was super excited.
“Everybody was talking about Sony Michel at the time. And I was like Sony might be nice, but this kid is going to be the guy. He’s a great player. Nick has gone through a lot, and I’m extremely excited to see him doing as well as he's doing.”
Chubb and Michel, a successful rookie in his own right with the Patriots, were freshman teammates at Georgia in 2014, a season that Chubb capped by piling up 226 rushing yards in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Chubb was rolling to the tune of 13 consecutive 100-yard games when early in the 2015 season he suffered a brutal knee injury.
“I talked to him a bunch after he was injured,” Davis said, “just trying to give him some words of encouragement having dealt with injuries myself.”
Chubb recovered and rose again, and the Browns used the 35th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to select him. It's worth noting the Panthers were also high on Chubb entering the draft.
Chubb hasn’t disappointed, rushing for 694 yards and seven touchdowns even though he didn’t start until the seventh game of the season following Cleveland's decision to trade Carlos Hyde.
Davis has watched many a college player and now some pros struggle to bring the powerful Chubb to the ground. Sunday, he’ll be the one trying to tackle Chubb.
“I’ve never had that opportunity,” Davis said, “but I will this weekend.”