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Panthers draft Chuba Hubbard with 126th overall pick

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CHARLOTTE — The Panthers found some backfield depth in the fourth round, adding Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard with the 126th pick.

And they found a guy who has put up big numbers, and hopes to again.

In 2019 he was outstanding, with 328 carries for 2,094 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns for the Cowboys, leading all FBS players.

"It's kind of hard for me to describe, I feel like I have a different or unique running style," Hubbard said. "But I know that one thing about me is I'm a playmaker. I feel like I can score from any part of the field, and I can bring a lot to the Panthers."

That 2019 total included 171 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor, which may have made an impression on his new boss, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.

But that wasn't his first exposure to the Panthers. Hubbard said he was a fan of former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, and was pulling for his new team to win in Super Bowl 50. He also said he modeled his game off new teammate Christian McCaffrey, and hopes be able to show his abilities as a pass-catcher the same way McCaffrey has here.

Hubbard's numbers were off last year, as he ran 133 times for 625 yards and five touchdowns in the first seven games of last season. Then his year was cut short by an ankle injury and decided to opt out of the end of the year to prepare for the draft.

He called his final year at Oklahoma State a "learning period," and referred to a much-publicized incident in which he called out coach Mike Gundy for wearing a T-shirt of a far-right television network and threatened to boycott the season if things didn't change.

But he said Saturday he viewed that incident as a positive now.

"Like I said, 2020 was a year of growth for me, a lot of learning lessons and trying to be a better person and try to do the right thing," Hubbard said. "Being on the outside looking in and seeing that whole situation when it happened, a lot of people can twist it and make it seem like something it's not.

"When in reality, that whole situation that went down there made me a better person, made coach Gundy a better person, and also made the program a better place. I'm always trying to become a better person, and do the right thing, and that was just the case there."

The Panthers needed a solid backup option to McCaffrey after Mike Davis left in free agency, and Hubbard's an explosive player.

The native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, excelled as a track athlete early in his life before finding football. He had the fourth-fastest time in the world in his age group in 2015 (10.60 seconds in the 100 meters).

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