Jim Lippincott, the Bengals' former director of football operations who scouted their prospects for 20 years, is now on the other side of the aisle after they selected Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard Friday night in the third round.
As a member of the draft room that evaluated and scouted most of this Bengals defensive line, Lippincott coached the latest addition when he retired from the league and put Hubbard in the middle of his defense at Moeller High School as a 6-5, 225-pound safety. They won two state titles together for Cincinnati's fabled football powerhouse and the 69-year-old football lifer and the 23-year-old lacrosse transplant are still texting.
"You'll love Sam Hubbard. I love Sam Hubbard to death," said Lippincott Saturday morning with his vintage enthusiasm. "He's everything you want in a human being. Polite, respectful, engaging. Smiles. Smart. Works hard, tries hard. Couldn't ask more from a human being than Sam Hubbard."
So no wonder Hubbard has had Lippincott thinking about current Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. That's how the 10-year veteran rates in the human category and as Lippincott watched Hubbard play for the Buckeyes he began seeing Johnson. Long. Relentless. Didn't want to come off the field.
"Michael's very, very smart. So is Sam. Sam reminds me of Michael a little bit," Lippincott said.
It wasn't lost on Lippincott that Johnson read Hubbard's card at the draft in Dallas.
"We took Michael in the third round, too," Lippincott said.
Johnson went No. 70. Hubbard No. 77. Lippincott believes Hubbard is a nice fit as an end in a 4-3 as a pass rusher and that he can contribute for several years.
"That was my first exposure to big-time football. He was on another level what he taught me," Hubbard said Saturday after driving crosstown to Paul Brown Stadium to get fitted for cleats and a helmet. "It was an incredible experience for me to get ready for college because he taught me how to disguise defense and what offenses are trying to do. I plan on talking to him today."
They didn't realize they were still close until Lippincott discovered that Hubbard wasn't running the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine last month. Lippincott, who ran the Bengals' combine operation during most of his stay at PBS, knew exactly where Hubbard was when he called his phone.
He was still on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium with the rest of the defensive linemen. Hubbard texted him right back and then called him right away after the drills.
"I was a little bit miffed he wasn't running the 40," Lippincott said. "But it was like he never left. We just picked up like before he went to Ohio State."
Hubbard told him he had it covered, that he had been training for the 40 out in California, and would be ready for his pro day in Columbus. He trained with top ten picks Quenton Nelson and Bradley Chubb and he did crank out a 4.85 seconds.
Saturday was a day for reminiscing. (The pick before Johnson in '09 was USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in the second round when Lippincott reminded the room they talked about him in the first round and should be worthy enough. Maualuga went on to start in the middle of four top ten defenses.)
Lippincott recalled walking off the practice field with Hubbard in the summer of his junior year in 2012, Lippincott's first year of what no one can now call a retirement.
"If there is anything I haven't covered during the game, you have permission to call timeout," Lippincott told him.
A few months later the Crusaders were in the final minutes of a taut state semifinal in Dayton. The Mighty Men of Mo were up four, as Lippincott recalled, but Pickerington North was driving to win when they faced fourth-and-goal.
When the quarterback went in motion, Hubbard stood up and called timeout. When play resumed, the Crusaders finished off the goal-line stand and went off to win it all the next week.
"I love Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis," Lippincott said. "And I'm just happy because I know he'll be treated fairly and well."