Panthers honor request, tab RB Chuba Hubbard in fourth round

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FILE PHOTO: NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State
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The Carolina Panthers were on the clock during the fourth round of Saturday's NFL draft when coach Matt Rhule received a text.

It was his wife, Julie, and she had a succinct message: Draft Chuba Hubbard.

Peace at the dinner table was maintained when Rhule and the Panthers followed the instructions and tabbed the Oklahoma State running back with the 126th overall selection.

Rhule broke the news to Hubbard when they chatted on the phone shortly after the pick was announced in Cleveland, where all seven rounds of the draft was held over three days starting with the first round on Thursday night.

"This is true. I got to tell you this, man," Rhule said to Hubbard in a video released by the Panthers. "About 10 minutes ago, my wife texted me and said 'please take Chuba Hubbard.' So she speaks, it happens. We're excited to have you, man."

Carolina owner David Tepper got on the phone and verified the text was legitimate while speaking to Hubbard.

The Panthers will be hoping Julie Rhule has an eye for talent and that Hubbard can be a solid backup to star runner Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had a season for the ages in 2019 but played in just three games due to injuries last season. Now-departed journeyman Mike Davis filled in admirably but his limitations also made it clear Carolina needed to upgrade the position.

Hubbard had a huge season in 2019 when he rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns for Oklahoma State. But things didn't go as well in the COVID-19 plagued 2020 campaign as he rushed for just 625 yards and five touchdowns in seven games before an ankle injury halted his season.

But Rhule, who once coached at Baylor, hasn't forgotten that day that mid-October day in 2019 when Hubbard rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

"I couldn't sit there and watch you run wild on me all those years at Baylor and not take you when I had the chance," Rhule said.

Hubbard wasn't the only big name to go in the fourth round. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 133rd overall pick.

Book stands just 6 feet tall, which is on the small slope of NFL signal callers. But the Saints had a small-size quarterback for the past 15 seasons in legendary Drew Brees, the sure Hall of Famer who retired after last season.

So naturally, another chapter about Book's height was being written after the player who was 30-5 as a starter in college went to New Orleans.

"That's just been the story my whole entire life," Book told reporters of his height after being selected. "I've always had a chip on my shoulder. You know, I'm not getting any taller. And Drew Brees has been able to do it -- there's many other quarterbacks, you can go down the list, that have been able to do it.

"We're different players, but we're similar in stature. And (Brees) proved to everybody down there and in the world that he could do it. And I want to do the same thing, and I just feel like I fit in that system well. You know, those are big shoes to fill, there's no doubt about it, but that's an exciting challenge for me."

Sam Ehlinger of Texas was the only other quarterback picked in the final four rounds. He went in the sixth round (218th selection) to the Indianapolis Colts.

Ehlinger passed for 11,436 yards and 94 touchdowns for the Longhorns, second in both categories behind Colt McCoy (13,253 yards, 112 touchdowns from 2006-09).

The New York Jets had a unique draft oddity by picking two players named Michael Carter.

The Jets selected Michael Carter, a running back from North Carolina, in the fourth round, and then selected cornerback Michael Carter II of Duke in the fifth round.

The Carters certainly are highly familiar with each other. They played against each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The running back Carter finished his North Carolina career in fourth place on the school's all-time rushing list with 3,404 career yards after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

"We were really excited about Michael Carter, just his elusiveness and his explosive playmaking ability," Jets general manager Joe Douglas said of the back.

New York coach Robert Saleh was just as excited about the defensive back Carter, who can play both cornerback and safety.

"He's one of those guys with great versatility." Saleh said. "Tremendous speed. He's very sticky in coverage and he's tremendous mentally in terms of absorbing information and play multiple spots.

The final selection of the 259-player draft, known as Mr. Irrelevant, was Houston linebacker Grant Stuard.

--Field Level Media