If you look at this year’s K-State football schedule poster, you’ll find a group of players surrounding senior linebacker Tre Walker, who is holding up the wooden block with the inscription “family.”
But if you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s not Walker that’s at the forefront of the team. Rather, standing just beside Walker at the front of the pack is senior running back John Hubert.
Hubert, who finished fourth in the Big 12 in rushing yards last season, is looked to as one of the leaders for the Wildcats.
“I have to step up and get into that leadership role,” Hubert said at the K-State Football Media Days on Aug. 5.
Last Saturday against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, Hubert became the ninth player in program history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a career, cementing himself into K-State history. That list includes legendary names such as Darren Sproles, Daniel Thomas, Ell Roberson and Collin Klein, last year’s Heisman Trophy finalist.
Hubert likely won’t catch K-State’s all-time rushing leader, Sproles, who has 4,979 career rushing yards as a Wildcat. But if Hubert can rack up 827 more yards on the ground in the team’s 10 remaining games, he’ll be able to finish second all-time on the career rushing list. That spot is currently occupied by Thomas, who racked up 2,850 yards while in Manhattan and is currently a starting running back for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
But what’s even more important for Hubert on this year’s team is to fill the gaps in the rushing game that Klein’s departure left.
“Last year is last year,” Hubert said. “We have new faces in the system now, and a lot of new players on defense. We are combining and coming together. We are just going out and having fun.”
So far this season though, Hubert has struggled. In the Week 1 loss to North Dakota State, he rushed for just 23 yards. He improved slightly in Week 2 with 56 yards on the ground and another 35 receiving.
“You saw a couple of snaps last week where he was the old John Hubert,” said head coach Bill Snyder. “He turned it loose, stayed on his feet, broke some tackles; I think he needs to do that on a consistent basis.”
But Hubert is still averaging just 2.8 yards per carry this season, a far cry from last year’s 5.0 average.
Snyder says that he is hoping Hubert can return to his usual self in the game against UMass.
“I just want him to get back to the rhythm that he was in last year and there are a lot of things that enter into that as well but I think we need to get John to run hard,” Snyder said.
Snyder and Hubert are entering their fifth season together, so Snyder definitely knows what it takes for Hubert to play at his highest level.
Hubert joined the program in 2009 and redshirted his first season. Then, after appearing in seven games while sitting behind Thomas in 2010, he became the starting running back in 2011.
“It has been a long, five years under Coach Snyder and going through two-a-days, camp and spring games,” Hubert said.
Since then, Hubert has started all but one of K-State’s game. And he’s been one of the biggest stars in the entire Big 12.
Hubert said that one of his goals this year is to reach that 1,000 yard mark in a season. That milestone has eluded him over the past two seasons, when he rushed for 970 and 947 yards.
“That’s still always my goal until I get it,” Hubert said. “My goal is just to go out and do better than I did last year. I believe last year, I did better than the year before last so this year, I want to step my game up.”
Overall though, Hubert said he believes that this season will be successful for himself and for those around him.
“It’s going to be a great year for me and for the rest of my team.”