Adrian Hubbard never seemingly had any trouble at Alabama. He graduated after the 2013 fall semester before declaring for the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, and had 16.5 tackles for loss -- 10 of them sacks -- among 44 total tackles across two years as a starter. He was a key piece of an Alabama defense that spearheaded consecutive national championships.
So it caught Hubbard off guard when Nolan Nawrocki included him on his list of the most controversial players in the NFL Draft and wrote this:
Has a quirky personality, inflated opinion of his ability and carries a sense of entitlement that could be difficult to manage and require a patient positional coach. ... Has starter traits, but has yet to reach the impact level he thinks he makes.
Hubbard spoke with SB Nation about what he thought of Nawrocki's comments, as well as Alabama's exceptionalism and the pass rushing tricks he has picked up from Julius Peppers and guru Chuck Smith.
What are you doing to prepare for the NFL Draft?
Working out every day, of course. Swimming, stretching, working out with the pass rush guru Chuck Smith in Georgia. Just trying to perfect my craft and studying tape here and there.
What work are you doing with Chuck Smith?
Just doing some defensive line things. Just working on violent, you know, how violent I need to be, and just hitting the targets and getting off and knowing how to get sacks off the offensive linemen.
Has he been able to teach you stuff that you haven't learned before?
I've trained with him a lot before the 2012 season. He has showed me a lot of how to mesmerize people with your speed, and then give them your power. Just mix things up and have them guess instead of them knowing what you're going to do, have them guessing at what you're going to do.
How'd you first start working with him?
It was word of mouth. I heard he was good guy. I knew that he knew what he was doing, I knew that he was a guru for pass rushers. So I just went to him and I liked him, so I kept training with him because every down he makes you get after it.
What was the determining factor in deciding to head to the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining?
I just felt like I was ready to play at the next level. I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish at Alabama, and I felt I was prepared for the next level.
Did your coaches help you in making your decision?
Yeah, Coach Saban and my parents. They're both big factors in the decisions that I make.
Was there a time when you sat down with Coach Saban? What was that meeting like?
There was an evaluation, you get it from the NFL -- what is it called? -- the junior ... anyway they said it was anywhere from the second to the fourth round and he said you've done a lot at the University of Alabama, we've never had any problems, so good luck at the next level and nothing but the best.
NFL Mock Draft
You're entering the draft with a big class of Alabama prospects. Have you done a lot of training with teammates in preparation?
Has that been beneficial?
Well it's always useful when I can get around to talk to my buddies, because texting them is nothing like seeing one of them in person, so when I get to see them in person we get to crack jokes like we always do and just have fun.
Has it been stressful, the training and being away from teammates?
I don't believe so. I come from a very good Alabama program, so we are always doing things to get there. The day is always full. This is just moving on to the next part of your life, so you're doing the same thing. It's more of a job now than it was at Alabama.
Have you been hearing a lot from NFL teams?
Almost every team, my agent has all of them, and of course I've probably spoken to 30 of those teams. They're all saying just keep training, just work hard, and everything will work out for the best for you.
What feedback have you received? What do they like and what do you need to improve on?
The things I have to improve on, the big thing is just consistency. It's dominating my opponent a lot more than I do. Just being able to be consistent with everything.
Then one of the big things they liked were, of course, everybody talks about the measurables, but that's an essential part of my game. It's crazy. Size matters, but I work hard, I have a good heart and I'm always trying to push myself to make plays and I never want to let my teammates down. I'm still like that. I'm not an underachiever.
From a more technical standpoint, what do you feel are your best traits as an outside linebacker or potential rush defensive end?
Being able to control guys at the line of scrimmage and holding the edge, being able to make negative plays when the play is there. Then being able to adapt to each situation whether it's pass, run, I can drop back and cover guys man on man, zone, I can get to the quarterback and make plays ... just kind of a utility guy, wherever I fit in is where I get at 'em.
Not just throwing darts
Not just throwing darts
Are there teams in the NFL that you feel you are a good fit for?
I think I can fit with any team, whether it's a 4-3 or a 3-4. I played six positions at Alabama, so I can adapt to any position that I'm given.
What about teams in the NFL that you just like? Did you have a childhood favorite?
I never grew up with a team. I grew up with a player, Julius Peppers. That was about it, though.
What have you tried to emulate from Peppers' game?
He carries himself like a professional. I try to do that. And also, on the field, the way he is just -- I actually took something from him, it's a long-arm. A lot of guys in the NFL use it, but I feel like he portrays it more than a lot of other people because he's been doing it for so long. You control your man with one arm, because one arm is longer than two arms. And when you're long you can use it to your advantage. So going from a two-arm to one-arm pass rush.
Have you been able to reach out to current or former NFL players and use them as mentors?
Courtney Upshaw and -- those are the guys I talk to the most -- and Dee Milliner is one of my best friends. Just some of the older alumni from Alabama. When I first got there they brought me into their arms, just showed me the ropes, and how they doing things. So I still talk to those guys weekly.
What's been the most valuable piece of advice that those guys have given you?
Just don't sell yourself short. And when you get here, just get here ready to play. Because you never know if you're a play away from getting in the game or starting. You never know.
One thing you mentioned earlier is that wanted to emphasize that you're not an "underachiever." Has that been something that has been said about you?
You hear a lot of things out there. I was just stating that because I come from a good pedigree at Alabama, so a lot of the guys -- we're winners there, and that's the standard we like to set. So if we don't get what we want, which is a championship -- it's underachieving if we don't get a championship. So our standards are a little bit higher than a lot of other people.
Underachiever? No I don't think that. If I had to say anything, I'd say that I get after it every play. Consistency is just one thing, I make sure my motor is always going whether I'm making a tackle or making a play or not.
Right before the NFL Combine, there was an NFL.com report by Nolan Nawrocki that took you a little bit by surprise, questioning your character. How did you respond to that?
It was really ironic because I was leaving from talking to some kids down by where I was training about finishing school and being the best person you can off the field, then I get the text from my friends saying, "Hey man, there's an article about you saying that your attitude is bad" or whatnot.
I said, "Well, the best judge of character that I know is Coach Saban." Coach Saban is one of the best judges of character I know out there, he's one of the guys who can judge you like that, and you don't play or start on this team for two years, and you don't stay at the University of Alabama if your character is bad, because he's real big on character and integrity.
Going into the Combine after the report, were teams suddenly questioning your character in interviews?
It was never brought up within the NFL teams; it was just all about football.
What was it like being a player under Coach Saban?
I appreciate everything that he did.
He expects a lot from a young man coming into the system, and no one is bigger than the system. He's always letting you know that you're never better than football. That's just one of the main things he talks about. You never have arrived. He says if you think you have arrived, you should be playing the game a lot more.
Has he been with you since you began preparing for the NFL Draft?
I've spoken with Coach Saban a few times, just when I got back to Tuscaloosa and did my working out there. I'm mainly in my hometown of Lawrenceville, Ga., training with Chuck Smith.
Looking ahead to May, where do you hope you're going to get taken?
Where do I hope I get taken? To a team that values myself, and will put me in the best predicament possible.
Looking back at Alabama, what are you going to miss most?
Just being around the atmosphere, that's probably one of the main things. Just the way people treat you there.
And of course, winning everything is fun. But it's always bigger than football when you're talking about life. So I think just the people, and the friendships that I was able to get, and the doors that are open.
I'll probably miss our Friday walkthrough, when everybody comes in and we walk through the gameplan, what we plan on doing. We actually play the game before we play the game. Just getting your mind right, getting in the mindset. The week of school is up now it's time to just focus on football.