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Hubbard wants to second his emotion


If any player on the team was discouraged by the Naval Academy's lack of intensity in its season-opening loss to Temple, it had to be Billy Hubbard.

This is a guy who wears emotion on his sleeves, does his best to incite the enthusiasm of the fans and plays with an absolutely undaunted style.

Although his teammates think he is a tad crazy (as in fearless), the Mount Airy native has come a long way, working into the starting lineup as a wide receiver as a senior after first making his mark as a punt returner extraordinare.

"This is the way I've always played," said Hubbard, a member of the 1995 Linganore High Class 2A state champions. "I just get emotional out there. I guess it is because I got beat up a lot and picked on in the neighborhood when I was a kid."

Hubbard came to the academy with a broad background in Navy athletics. His father, Mark, graduated from Navy in 1976 and played lightweight football. His uncle, John, graduated five years earlier and played lacrosse.

"If you get recruited to play lacrosse, you don't play in front of 70,000 people or get the excitement of an Army-Navy game," said Hubbard. "I had to make a choice. I chose football because all I had ever heard about growing up was the importance of the Army-Navy rivalry."

A former midfielder who describes himself as more of "dodger" than a hitter, Hubbard is considering lacrosse when his football career ends in December. But he had progressed too far on the gridiron to abandon football.

"I was a quarterback and free safety in high school and was recruited as a safety," he said. "They moved me to quarterback and I had no idea how to run the option. We ran a pro set in high school and only used the option sparingly. I just didn't know what I was doing with the option."

He was a junior when he finally reached the varsity, last season returning a school-record 35 punts for a 7.4-yard average. He fair-caught the ball only twice and was featured on CNN/SI for returning every punt until the ninth game of the season.

"That was against Rutgers and we were way up [ahead in the score], so I didn't want to fumble," said Hubbard. "Everybody had been asking me if I could go through the whole year without a fair catch."

The unusual part of Hubbard's background lies in where he grew up-in a town on the border of Frederick and Carroll counties.

"If I had lived across the street, I would have gone to South Carroll, which didn't have the football program that Linganore did," he said. "There was a huge difference in getting recruited for college."

Hubbard is at a loss to explain what happened to Navy's offense in the opener. The Midshipmen just couldn't get anything untracked and were shut out until midway through the fourth quarter.

"The intensity wasn't there and I don't know why," he said. "The week before in practice we were doing awesome. I tried to give us a spark somehow. We never had two first downs in a row. Nobody was reacting."

Hubbard made Navy's longest reception of the game - for 33 yards to the Temple 38 - with his team behind by 11 points. The Midshipmen did not gain another yard in the game, surrendering the ball on four incomplete passes. Temple then ran out the nearly six minutes left on the clock.

"It went well," he said of his first offensive start. "It didn't take away from returning punts and I felt like I was contributing more to the outcome of the game."

But working for two weeks against Temple's defensive scheme and then not being able to solve it in the game was distressing to Hubbard.

"You could see them flying around everywhere," he said. "We made some mental mistakes. I don't know if it was the shock of the first game or what. They just felt so confident and we didn't have much emotion."

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