NC State arrived back in Raleigh, North Carolina, after a stirring win over Florida State around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Bradley Chubb and teammate B.J. Hill decided to get some sushi for dinner at a local restaurant.
While they ate, the Mississippi State-Georgia game played on one of the televisions. Chubb looked up to see highlights of his cousin Nick rolling through the Mississippi State defense for two touchdowns in an impressive 31-3 victory.
For perhaps the first time since they got to college, both Chubbs made headlines on the same day. Nick had his typical big game, and Bradley had a big game too, with two sacks and a forced fumble in the Wolfpack's 27-21 upset win over Florida State. But a postgame clip that showed Bradley spitting at midfield overshadowed that performance.
Bradley has since apologized, explaining he allowed his emotions to get the best of him. But what Bradley did was hard to square with the young man who sat in a meeting room inside the Georgia football facility in the summer of 2015 with his brother Brandon, father Aaron and cousin Nick.
The four gathered to talk about the Chubb football connections. Bradley sat quietly as Brandon, Aaron and Nick spoke. Bradley and Nick grew up 50 miles apart, and first learned about each other thanks to their own burgeoning football careers, when they got constantly asked whether they were related.
A little digging found that they were, and soon the Chubb cousins met for the first time in winter 2013. Bradley and Nick were getting recruited at the same time. Nick was the No. 63 player in the ESPN 300 in the class of 2014 with offers from 23 Power 5 schools.
Bradley was a late bloomer coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee his junior year, a three-star recruit with offers from seven Power 5 schools.
They both played as true freshmen at their respective universities, though Nick grabbed far more headlines after a breakout season in which he ran for 1,547 yards. Bradley played mostly special teams. When the Chubbs met up the following summer, Nick had preseason Heisman hype; Bradley was just hoping to start at his new position, defensive end.
Tall and still undersized for the position, Bradley had drawn praise from NC State coach Dave Doeren for his work ethic and strength (that is a trait all the Chubbs have in abundance). At the time, Bradley said, “If I go through camp healthy, it could be my first college start. If that happens, it’s going to take off from there.”
But really, the idea that both Nick and Bradley Chubb still would be playing as college seniors seemed far-fetched even then. Nick almost certainly was headed for NFL stardom sooner rather than later, but a knee injury in the 2015 season changed that course. As Nick rehabbed, Bradley blossomed. During their junior seasons, Nick became a 1,000-yard rusher again, and Bradley finished fourth in the nation in tackles for loss.
They each faced a tough decision about their futures, a prospect that probably never occurred to either of them as they sat in that room together.
“I saw him over New Year’s Eve. ... That was around the time he made it public he was staying, and I asked him what went into his decision,” Bradley Chubb told ESPN.com. “At that time, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do yet. Talking to him, seeing where his mind was at, my mind was at the same place. One of the reasons he told me is because he felt he didn’t want to go off on the bad note his team went out on last year. And I just had a lot of similarities in the thought process. I felt it was best for me to stay.”
So here Nick and Bradley Chubb are, among the best players in the nation at their respective positions. They still text each other often to stay in touch. And now it is Bradley who is listed on Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest Big Board, at No. 19. Since he arrived at NC State, Bradley has gained 50 pounds and developed into an All-American performer. He is no longer the quiet young man sitting in the background.
Excruciating losses to Florida State, Clemson and a slew of others through the years have raised Bradley’s competitive spirits. He told teammates headed into Florida State the game was personal for him.
“When I decided to stay here, these were the games I circled on my list,” Chubb said. “Every year, we’ve come so close and having it slip away from us at the last minute -- I never wanted that feeling again. I came back for a reason. I didn’t come back just for selfish reasons. I came back to finish what I started with the team.”
Bradley has grown into an emotional leader for NC State, one unafraid to speak out. Perhaps that helps from a motivation standpoint, but too many emotions also can lead to what happened Saturday after the game.
Next time, Bradley knows the focus needs to be on his performance only. That way he and Nick have a chance to share the spotlight again, for all the right reasons.