Aidan Hubbard '21 is a forward thinker.
As Hubbard looked at colleges, he wasn't thinking about just the next four years. He was looking ahead to the next 40.
"My family and I wanted a good school that was great academically and athletically," Hubbard said. "Talking to Northwestern, we felt that it was the right fit. I'm looking ahead 40 years, not just the four years while I'm playing. I want to be able to provide for myself after football is over. Northwestern sets you up for life after football."
Hubbard's maturity comes as no surprise to his coaches, teachers, and teammates. The Rocky River native owns a 4.1 GPA along with a mind that's always deep in thought.
"Aidan always wants to analyze. He's trying to read it right and do it right," says Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "With more experience, he'll just go. The wheels are turning in his head, as thinking everything through. He doesn't just know his own role, he understands how the defense works, and how the 10 other guys fit into the scheme. All of these great universities are looking at him because of the effective job he can do."
Indeed, Hubbard drew plenty of attention after an outstanding junior season. Hubbard wowed fans and opposing coaches with his frightening combination of size and athleticism. The 6'4, 225-pound outside linebacker/rush end showcased his quickness and power frequently in 2019.
Hubbard led the team with 36.5 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss last season. Hubbard also added 2 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry, and 2 fumble recoveries. Hubbard earned first-team All-District and All-Ohio recognition.
Northwestern, Boston College, Duke, Cincinnati, and Akron all offered Hubbard. Most of the programs recruited him as a weakside linebacker/defensive end.
"Colleges have talked about him as a weakside linebacker, because of the way he'll blitz," Kyle says. "He can be effective as a pass rusher against the right tackle, but he can also get into coverage in the flat. With his basketball skills, he can handle it. Maybe he could even run with the tight end downfield. He fits the bill for a lot of teams. A great list of colleges was interested in him, all with great reputations and academics. This is a wonderful opportunity for Aidan."
When looking at his options, Hubbard started to hone in on Northwestern.
The coaches, campus, and academics all had an influence in his decision.
"I visited the campus last summer, and it's so beautiful on Lake Michigan," Hubbard says. "It's in a great neighborhood, too. Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald helped me feel comfortable. He's upbeat, has a great track record, and his background is insane. Coach Long, the defensive line coach, was laid back. He's been there for 15 years, which is great. The coaching staff has been there for a while."
Hubbard joins a long line of Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger '02 students to play at the next level. Many of his linebackers have moved on to play Big Ten football, including Scott McVey '09 (Ohio State), Jake Ryan '10 (Michigan), Kyle Berger '13 (Ohio State), Adam Shibley '17 (Michigan), and Tommy Eichenberg '19 (Ohio State).
Franzinger couldn't be more excited for Hubbard.
"This is a great opportunity for Aidan, to learn and play football in the great Big Ten Conference," says Franzinger. "Knowing Aidan, a 4.1 student, he had a shortlist of institutions that were going to meet his academic and athletic standards. Congratulations to Aidan, his family, and to Coach Fitzgerald and Northwestern."
Hubbard's athleticism shined through on the basketball court this past winter, as well. The 6'4 forward earned a letter, logging significant minutes and flashing his trademark grin after making nice plays.
Another great athlete from Northeast Ohio, Najee Story of Solon, will join Hubbard at Northwestern. Story plays defensive end and tight end as a valuable member of the Comets.
As Hubbard prepares for the football season, his coaches have been impressed with his work ethic.
"Aidan has always been very eager to work in the offseason. He'll come out and do some things with the track team to improve his speed and conditioning. He's in the weight room even during basketball season," Kyle says. "And when he plays basketball, he gets under the hoop and battles. When you're doing that, the stronger the better, so lifting weights during the season is a good idea. He's always has had a very nice approach of, 'Enjoy what's happening now, but prepare for the future.' He's not done growing and developing and he knows you can't take time off and show improvement. A lot more athletes need to understand that and take Aidan's approach."
So far, Hubbard's athletic career at Saint Ignatius has been very successful. But he's always looking ahead.
Hubbard is excited to get on the field in the fall.
"It's been very positive over my three years going into my fourth," Hubbard says. "The coaches and teachers push you every day, and as I'm striving to get better, they’ll help you do that. It’s a brotherhood, and I couldn’t be happier here. This season, I want to make sure everyone works hard. I want to make the playoffs since we missed them last season."
Indeed, Hubbard has a very high ceiling this season and beyond.
"He's an excellent student and checks all the boxes. He has very high goals, and still more potential to go, as he's just now filling out," Kyle says. "He's an athlete, and not just on the football field, but also on the basketball court. It will be exciting for us to watch what he does in Big 10 football. What a wonderful opportunity for Aidan. Northwestern is an amazing school, and this is a tremendous opportunity for him."
Before he continues his work for this season and beyond, Hubbard has a few thank you's.
"First off, I want thank my parents," Hubbard says. "They've been with me every step of the way and helped me make the decision. I also want to thank my coaches. They've helped me to improve and get better every day, on the field and in the weight room. And finally, thank you to my teammates and friends. They make me laugh when I need it, and lift me up. They're always there for me and have my back.”