Josh Hubner is grateful for the opportunity that ASU gave him. - (Photo: ASU)
When the NFL Draft takes place this April, Josh Hubner will be one of just a handful of Sun Devil players with the opportunity to turn pro.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 238 pounds, Josh Hubner is a physical specimen.
At first glance, the Arizona State senior looks the part of a go-to wide receiver or a hard-hitting safety. A local product from Scottsdale, Arizona, Hubner excels in the Sun Devil weight room and flashes glimpses of his 4.65 40-yard dash speed during conditioning drills, but come game day, Hubner makes his presence felt in a different way.
The loud boom that Arizona State fans are accustomed to hearing from Hubner isn't the result of a devastating hit or a punishing run, but rather the effect of the football exploding off of his foot when the Sun Devil punt unit hits the field.
Football fans often possess the preconceived notion that specialists fade into the background and appear only for fourth downs on game day, but Hubner maintains the same schedule as his teammates.
"Often times specialists are given a lazy label, but I'm looking to change that. We come in and look to do as much work as we can with the rest of the team and we just try to make sure that we don't live up to that stereotype," Hubner said.
With one game remaining in his career as a Sun Devil, Josh Hubner has made quite an impression. One look at Hubner is all it takes to understand that he shredded the specialist stereotype long ago. In fact, Hubner's work ethic has helped turn him into one of the top NFL prospects on the Sun Devil team and his postseason award recognition comes as no surprise to anyone who follows the Sun Devils closely.
At the recent football team awards banquet, Josh Hubner received the Babe Alex Demon Special Teams MVP and for good reason. This season, the senior booted 52 punts including 22 that traveled a distance of at least 50 yards. A staggering average of 47.3 yards per punt makes Hubner a can't-miss target for NFL teams in need of special teams help and a natural for postseason notoriety.
"Anytime you get any type of award, it's real humbling to know you performed at a high-caliber level. Whatever awards or recognition that comes with that is just a byproduct of the way that this team played this year and it's a collective effort," Hubner said.
While Josh Hubner has a great chance of landing a spot on an NFL roster come fall, he almost didn't crack the Arizona State roster two seasons ago. A versatile star at Desert Mountain High School, Hubner used his athleticism at a variety of positions including wide receiver. Despite earning All-Arizona Honors from the Arizona Republic, the do-everything senior wound up playing his first two collegiate seasons at Scottsdale Community College.
When Hubner solely devoted his focus to punting, his stock took off and he became a highly coveted prospect out of Scottsdale Community College. He received offers from around the country, but didn't muster much attention from his local school of choice. Late in his recruiting process, former Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson made Hubner an offer he couldn't refuse.
"It was the last scholarship offer I received and I had offers from all over the country. I was about 24 to 48 hours from committing to U of A when ASU called me and offered the scholarship and when they did that, I knew where I was going," Hubner said.
In his first season at Arizona State in 2011, Hubner produced an impressive 41.3 yards per punt average and downed 24 punts inside his opponents' 20-yard line. Never content, Hubner entered the 2012 season on a mission and his continued work in the weight room paid off. In 2012, Hubner punted the ball 10 times fewer than he did in 2011, yet managed to boot 22 punts over 50 yards this season compared to just seven last year.
In the Sun Devils' 45-43 heartbreaker against the UCLA Bruins, Hubner gave the Sun Devils the ultimate field position boost when he knocked a career-long 73-yard punt that will go down as one of his favorites during his time at Arizona State.
"There's a couple punts here and there that I even surprised myself with. The UCLA one that went off the guy's helmet was pretty intense and that's when you start realizing you've got potential and that's what motivates me to work harder."
Hubner's dedication and hard work have begun to pay off, as his dreams of becoming an NFL punter may soon become a reality. After practices, Hubner displays his athletic talents by catching and throwing passes that will certainly give NFL special teams' coaches thoughts for creative trick plays.
After Tuesday morning's practice, Hubner launched spirals from the 35-yard line through the goal posts that left media members speculating about the possibilities of his performance at the upcoming NFL combine. Though Hubner won't receive an invitation until after the season, he likes his chances of getting the nod.
"I would say there's a pretty good shot but you never know, you can't count your chickens before they're hatched," Hubner said.
The opportunity to shine at an event designed for athletes like Hubner would delight the Arizona State coaching staff, as they know their punter's draft stock can continue to rise.
Before moving to Scottsdale, Hubner grew up in New Jersey and passionately followed the New York Giants as a child. With NFL dreams becoming a reality, Hubner said he has had to push aside his allegiances, but maintains he's just fine with that.
"I'm quickly realizing that all those loyalties are going to have to go out the window as soon as I get to the draft. There's no team I wouldn't want to play for. I'll feel honored if I get a shot anywhere. I'm not looking to shock anybody and go in the second round but just an opportunity is what I'm looking for," Hubner said.
Following the bowl game, Hubner will begin training for his career after Arizona State. If the NFL decides to extend a combine invitation his way, Hubner sounds like he will be ready for the opportunity. If not, Hubner's been in that position before.
He waited patiently to become a Sun Devil, and Arizona State is sure glad he did. When an NFL organization does give him a shot, they too will be glad they gave him a chance.