ATHENS — It’s a long trip from Dallas, Texas, to Dallas, Georgia, but that was the one Nick Chubb was making Thursday night.
Some might say the Bulldogs’ beloved tailback was heading in the wrong direction. After all, the 2018 NFL Draft was just hours from beginning at AT&T Stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas. That Chubb was on a departing flight out of Dallas late Thursday afternoon rather than hanging out at the draft as was his good buddy and ex-teammate Roquan Smith is a bit of a statement on Chubb’s draft expectations.
But that’s all right with the low-key kid from Cedartown, Ga. He has plans to spend Thursday night watching the draft in a place that’s a little more his speed. He’ll take it in with his mom, grandmother, brother, sister and a few close friends at Buffalo Wild Wings in Dallas, Ga. Well, technically it’s in Hiram, just as the draft is technically in Arlington.
But why quibble over exact locations? That’s just like Chubb not fretting over the exact spot he’ll be selected in the draft. Sure, he wants it to be as early as possible. But his agent, Pat Dye Jr. of Atlanta, has made it clear that Chubb will be drafted and that he’s not likely to have to wait until the draft’s final minutes to find out in what round and by whom.
So Chubb was pretty relaxed and peaceful when I talked to him as he was being whisked to the airport in the back of a limo.
“I got a chance to sit down and talk with Pat yesterday, and he said you pretty much don’t ever know what will happen,” Chubb said of his immediate prospects in the three-day draft, which begins Thursday at 8 p.m. with the hyper-sensationalized first round (ESPN, NFL Network, FOX). “It could be today, it could be tomorrow, but definitely one of those days. He said there’s about a 30 percent chance it’ll happen tonight, so we’ll see. I’ll definitely have my phone charged up and ready.”
Realistically, Chubb probably won’t get the call tonight. At least not according to all of the mock drafts and mass prognostications that have overwhelmed our social media timelines for the better part of a month. But he’s right about “you never know,” because most players don’t know. Especially prospects of Chubb’s ilk.
For instance, we can be reasonably assured that Smith, Georgia’s Butkus Award-winning linebacker, will be picked relatively early in the first round. He’s one of the select few invited to take in the draft live from the green room they’ll have set up at AT&T Stadium tonight.
None of the other Georgia draft prospects will be there. And there are a lot of Georgia players who are expected to be a part of these proceedings through Saturday. In fact, the Bulldogs, coming off a 13-2, SEC Championship season, are in position to break the school record for players selected in the draft. It stands at eight for a seven-round draft, which happened in 2002 and 2013.
As many as 10 UGA players could get the call before the draft closes. And there likely will be more invited to NFL camps as free agents. That’s been a tried-and-true way for many Bulldogs to end up with a long and fruitful pro-football career.
But Chubb won’t have to worry about that. He is among a few Bulldogs who possibly could get a first-round call sometime after Smith. Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and running back Sony Michel also could slip in late in the first round.
Again, that Chubb has been hanging out in Dallas (Texas) since Tuesday morning is an indication of the expectations for him. He was invited by the NFL Players Association to make the rounds through the annual networking opportunity the organization conducts ahead of the draft.
“I met a lot of people, talked to a lot of companies,” Chubb said. “I got to hang out with Roquan a little bit [Wednesday]. It’s been fun.”
If his pre-draft weekend tells us anything, there will be a lot of off-field opportunities for Chubb wherever he lands. January through April has been whirlwind for him, between autograph sessions, camps and other money-making opportunities to appearances like the one he made at G-Day last weekend to all the other places he’s gone to meet with prospective teams that might call his name in the coming hours.
“It’s definitely been a busy beginning of the year,” Chubb said. “I’ve been running around like crazy and I’ve got to get my workouts in and I had to travel for a little while, had a lot of appearances and signing things. It’s been fun. It’s been wild. But I’ve enjoyed all of it. I’ve heard so many times that this part of the year is the busiest time. After it’s all said and done I should be able to relax a little bit.”
Anybody who knows much about Chubb knows he’s looking forward to the “after” part more than all of this. At his core, he remains a low-key young man who likes to go about his business and put in his work without a lot of fuss. It’s actually one of the traits a lot of these teams like about Chubb.
That and 5,130 all-purpose yards and 48 touchdowns at an SEC school.
That’s what Chubb is hanging his hat on. He’s in it for the long haul. He believes what will define his NFL career will be what he does on the field as a pro and not where he’s drafted over these three days. That was his approach at Georgia, and he certainly left a lasting impression on all those folks.
But UGA and its people also left an impression on Chubb, and he wanted to let everybody know that one last time before he stepped into yet another jet and made another flight from elsewhere back to Georgia.
It’s a direction he plans to keep flying, regardless where the draft will have him land.
“I’m just thankful to be able to play for that great university and for all the fans that supported me,” Chubb said from the back of ride. “I’ve been getting so many tweets and messages from people just saying they enjoyed my time at Georgia, and I did, too. I’m just thankful and blessed to have this opportunity to continue to compete in football on the next level, and it all started at Georgia.”
And as Chubb has made clear, for him it will all end in Georgia as well.
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