CEDARTOWN, Ga. – Nick Chubb is finally able to give back. And he’s just getting started.
The beloved Georgia running back, who only recently signed his first NFL contract with Cleveland Browns, made his first donation as a millionaire benefactor on Thursday. And, for him, there was never a doubt who would be the beneficiary.
Well, it was more of a whom, or an it, if you will. It was Cedartown High School. More specifically, the football team.
Chubb gave the small northwest Georgia program he helped make famous 65 football helmets. And before you utter “big deal,” you should know these are the top-of-the-line “Epic-Plus” helmets by Xenith. Chubb recently signed an endorsement deal with the up-and-coming sports apparel manufacturer. Along with a few other amenities from Xenith, Cedartown coach Doyle Kelley estimates the gift to be worth at least $15,000.
But money is not what this was all about. For Chubb, this was about being able to do something for a place that has his heart. That’s Cedartown, the city, the school, the football program, and that weight room behind the stadium.
“This is my first chance to actually give back,” Chubb said in an interview on Doc Ayers Field before his presentation ceremony. “Xenith offered me a deal and I loved it. It’s a chance to give something back to a place where I grew up and loved so much and is so dear to me. So, it was a perfect way for me to show how appreciative I am of this town that made me a better person.”
About those helmets — there’s a little back story. This wasn’t just a pro athlete landing an endorsement deal and leveraging that to help out his alma mater. What people may or may not realize is Chubb’s relationship with Xenith dates back to when he was still a relatively unknown running back at Cedartown High.
Scott Hendrix — then his football coach, now the school’s principal – is who’s responsible for putting Chubb in a Xenith helmet. The way he tells it, early in Chubb’s junior year his team-issue Riddell helmet kept flying off the hard-charging back in games. By rule that meant he’d have to come out of the game and sit out a play. Both player and coach quickly tired of that.
“One game, he’s over there on the sideline on fourth-and-2 and I’m losing my mind,” said Hendrix, who MC’ed Thursday’s ceremony at the Hon Community Center. “So I started calling around, and a guy told me about this Xenith helmet and how well the chinstrap pulls the padding against the back of your head and makes it less likely to come off. So I said, ‘send it.’”
Xenith did, and Chubb has worn that brand ever since. So the star tailback for the Nike school known as Georgia was wearing a Xenith helmet his entire career as a Bulldog. The manufacturer’s name had to be covered for every game.
Such brand loyalty sums up the walking phenomena that is Nick Chubb. Chubb recently signed a $7.38 million deal that included $3.4 million up front as the second-round pick (35th overall) of the Cleveland Browns, and now he’s starting to rack up the endorsements, too. They include Dodge, Nike, and several others. All of them have some kind of special connection to Chubb.
But you’d never know he’s now “in the money.” His attire was typically understated at his old school Thursday, dressed in faded jeans and an untucked grey Polo. And so far at least, Chubb hasn’t made any big moves with his bank roll. He has spent more time in Cedartown than anywhere since leaving UGA. He still sleeps in his room in his mother’s same house in nearby Dallas, Ga., and he’s still driving the same car he drove in college.
“I haven’t done anything,” Chubb said proudly. “I try to act like I’m broke.”
Well, he did get his mother, La’velle, a new Jeep Cherokee on Mother’s Day. But that was an endorsement as well (Banks Crossing Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram), so it actually came at no cost to him.
That’s kind of how Chubb rolls. Let’s just say he’s saving for a rainy day. He said he hopes to do “something big” in this area, but that won’t come until his NFL career ends “in my 30s.”
It remains to be seen if he’ll play that long. So far, Chubb said, the NFL has been great. He has been through two mini camps and he’ll report for preseason training camp in Berea, Ohio, in two weeks. Chubb bought a “modest” home in Cleveland, but when he’s with the team he famously rooms with Baker Mayfield, quarterback of those Oklahoma Sooners the Bulldogs’ dramatically dispatched in the Rose Bowl.
There have been a lot of jokes made about that, but Chubb says he actually likes the guy and they get along well.
“He’s a really good guy despite what everybody says about him,” Chubb said. “I enjoy working with him and living with him. It’s fun.”
Chubb had some inside scoop on Mayfield as well. “He’s really good at Fortnite (the video game), a lot better than me.”
In Cedartown, though, he remains the same old Nick. He still trains here every morning with Cedartown weigh-training and track coach Mikey Worthington.
Chubb is idolized here, but not in a googly-eyed way. He’s looked up to, even by the elders. This was Chubb’s last hurrah before bolting for Cleveland, so everybody who could honor him did so however they could on Thursday. The school created the Nick Chubb Award to give annually to the best combination of player, student, and leader. City Commissioner Matt Foster and State Representative Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) were each here to read out their respective resolutions, with all the resident whereas’s and therefore’s.
Cedartown football players mobbed Chubb for selfies and an impromptu autograph session broke out when the brief ceremony closed. Lynn Mitchell of Cedartown had him sign her No. 31 Cleveland Browns jersey she was proudly wearing.
Through it all, Chubb beamed. Except for one brief moment. Usually a stoic man of few words, Chubb actually choked up on the podium when he tried to articulate what the city of Cedartown meant to him on his climb to the big time. It was just the second time I’ve ever seen him get emotional. The other was on the bench after Georgia lost the national championship to Alabama in heartbreaking fashion.
But Chubb also emphasized that he doesn’t think he has arrived. He knows there’s another proving ground in the NFL. The people up there play for keeps.
“Everybody knows the deal: We’re all fighting for playing time and getting on the field,” Chubb said of the latest running back competition he’s been thrown into. “It’s definitely important to everybody because now if you take somebody’s spot it’s a lot more personal. But you can’t look at it like that. You’ve just got to go in there and work and do what you’ve got to do.”
Working hard has always served Chubb well. There may be doubters that he’ll flourish as a pro, but none of them reside in Cedartown.