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Chubbtown: A legacy of family strength for Broncos' Bradley Chubb

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SC Featured: Nick Chubb's historic hometown (6:56)

Georgia running back Nick Chubb hails from historic Chubbtown, Georgia, a free black colony that survived the Civil War, and is a descendant of the town's founders. (6:56)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Bradley Chubb, a proficient pass-rush prospect, was the fifth pick overall in the April draft by the Denver Broncos.

But there’s more, a lot more, to Chubb, whose name alone is a slice of history.

Bradley’s father, Aaron, understands his son is expected to be an impact player. But Aaron, despite his own football career at the University of Georgia, didn’t set out to raise a football player with a sizable future.

No, he and his wife, Stacey, wanted to raise “the kind of person who could be anything he wants to be, and be successful at it, football or not. We wanted to send our boys into the world ready to treat people how they’re supposed to be treated.”

At a time when many NFL players are focusing on social justice through peaceful protest, Aaron’s desire for his sons to honor their history is about their future.

And why the story of Chubbtown, Georgia, matters.

It matters because of the history and the people. How they all fit together affects the present and the future. It matters to Aaron that in a time of slavery, his ancestors still found a way to carve out a life when so many others like them were forced to live in servitude.

“With all that’s going on in the world, with all of the issues we face, it’s important to know our family history for our boys,” Aaron said. “Because I think it’s just behind everything we do, how you treat people, how you live. It was important for us to share -- the history, where we came from, what it means and how we can keep with it."

A place deep in history

What remains of Chubbtown is a patch of ground, rich in heritage for all who carry its name. It’s tucked just south of Rome, Georgia, where Cedartown Road and Chubbtown Road intersect just inside the Georgia-Alabama line.

The Chubb Chapel United Methodist Church remains, as well as a cemetery. It dates back to the time of slavery but was a community of free black men and women who carried the same name, who lived a largely self-sufficient existence.

Several documents and historical accounts say the rest of what was Chubbtown washed away in a flood in 1916. It was founded by John Henry Chubb, with his wife and eight sons, who came from North Carolina somewhere between 1850 and the end of the Civil War.

They were not slaves. The family founded the community, whose place was so unique the Chubb descendants say Union Gen. William T. Sherman left it untouched in his March to the Sea. During the campaign, in late 1864, Sherman and roughly 60,000 Union soldiers set fire to many buildings along the way. Sherman wrote that the objective was to “make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”

The Chubbs took care of themselves, farming the land and making most of their household goods. They also traded with whites in nearby communities. At its peak, Aaron said, Chubbtown’s businesses included a post office, sawmill, blacksmith and meeting hall.

“I remember going a lot, and that my dad [Henry] -- he lived around the area around Cedartown -- let me know why it was important for us,” said Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, who is Bradley’s second cousin. “All of my uncles, those were the people who let you know what it meant.

“It’s the heritage of my last name, that pride you feel for something like that. The people founded the town in the hard times they lived in, how hard they worked, how they persevered through the adversity we might not even be able to really comprehend sometimes, how they just dealt with all the obstacles that were thrown at them.”

That doesn’t mean Aaron’s sons, as they discovered they were their own people, immediately took to the lessons.

Bradley and his older brother, Brandon, weren’t yet teenagers when Aaron began to turn the pages on the family’s story. But to Aaron, it was "just so important," so he kept revealing the pieces. To Bradley, it sounded like something between fable and myth.

“It was just one of those stories your parents told you about how it was when they were young or something. ... I didn’t believe him,” Bradley Chubb said with a laugh. “I didn’t. That was maybe before sixth grade or right about then. But when I was in eighth grade, he took us, and it really kind of sunk in on that trip.”

The message matters

The lessons of hard work and the ability to respond to what life has in store finally sunk in. And whether Brandon, who is a linebacker for the Detroit Lions, or Bradley found themselves in a corner office, on an assembly line or in an NFL locker room -- “whatever they choose to do,” Stacey said -- those traits will always matter.

“They were self-sufficient. That had to be the kind of hard work most people don’t have to deal with,” Bradley said. “That’s where I feel like I can look back and see where hard work comes from in our family, I really feel that way. Nick and I have talked about it, how our parents, and their parents, and their parents, could just lean on how much people had done before them and how it got passed along.”

When the Broncos did the customary vetting of the 20-somethings on their draft board, Bradley’s football potential leaped off the game video. Broncos coach Vance Joseph called him “a rare player.” But in discussions with Bradley, and those who knew him, there was something else.

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said it’s often not what’s on the film that makes the difference in finding a player who reaches his potential or a player whose talent becomes little more than a starting point to an unfulfilled journey.

“Just in his demeanor, how he plays, how people said he interacted with his teammates, how he practiced, how he handled school,” Elway said. “You see how he does things is important to him. That comes from his family. You see it.”

Aaron said watching his sons go through the NFL draft experience was a lot to take in. And like most parents, he said, he and his wife hope they’ve done enough to prepare their children for what’s to come.

But that history can help because it still matters.

“Did he believe us about all this at first? Of course not. You know how kids are -- they don’t believe you, Daddy don’t know anything, you know?” Aaron said. “But it is quite a story. But once he saw it, both [Bradley and Brandon] knew immediately what we were talking about, and [what] I saw was an appreciation for what we’ve been telling them, what people had done, their elders had done, before them. They can carry that around always ... maybe they don’t always need it or want it, but they always have it with them.

“You learn from people. You learn from life. And all of us in our family have learned from that place.”