During A Difficult Time, One Browns Player Stands Tall As A Model Of Sportsmanship

Nick Chubb surpassed 1,000 yards against Pittsburgh and now has been honored as the team's nominee for the Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship. (USAToday)

Nick Chubb surpassed 1,000 yards against Pittsburgh and now has been honored as the team's nominee for the Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship. (USAToday)

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

It’s been an emotional week for the Browns.

A critical win over hated rival Pittsburgh was muted by the Myles Garrett tantrum with eight seconds left in the game. The fallout from that meltdown has still not subsided.

Garrett’s appeal of an indefinite suspension was heard in New York on Wednesday. A ruling will come by the weekend. Commissioner Roger Goodell already has stated that Garrett will not play again this season.

In the meantime, the optic of Garrett bashing Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet lingers nationally as the symbol of Browns unruliness, immaturity and disorder.

Thank God for Nick Chubb.

While everyone braced for news on Garrett’s pending suspension, it was announced that Chubb was the Browns nominee for the Art Rooney Award. It is an award introduced by the NFL five years ago to honor outstanding sportsmanship on the field.

How utterly sublime is the timing of this.

Chubb being recognized for selflessness, respect for the game, and respect for teammates and opponents alike, with an award named for the beloved founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It means a lot to me because it’s who I am, what I represent. I love my teammates and I love being a great teammate,” Chubb said.

Been there before: On a team loaded with flamboyant personalities and sensitive egos playing a game fueled by emotion, Chubb is a guiding light of composure and professionalism.

“Nick is one of the best at keeping his emotions in check. Just leading. He doesn’t really have to say much. He plays and shows his way of work by just going out and playing hard,” said running back Kareem Hunt.

“Some guys are wired differently. Every day, Chubb is very quiet, sticks to himself. Rarely ever see him mad. If you see emotion, it’s a giggle here or there,” said center JC Tretter.

“Doesn’t complain. Makes his plays. If he does celebrate, it’s with his offensive line,” said defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. “Comes to work every day with the same mentality. You get the same guy every day. True professional at such a young age. The no complaining thing is real big. I do some complaining for him. Every day isn’t peaches and roses. You have a coach on you a little bit, or practice might be too much, and you want a day off. He’s not that guy.”

Chubb doesn’t complain about bad calls against him, or uniform rules. He doesn’t taunt opponents or file away past slights against him – if any could possibly exist.

“I really don’t talk trash,” he said.

He seldom Tweets or posts Instagram stories. He expresses himself by what he does in his cleats, not by having them elaborately custom-painted.

A scene in the first episode of Hard Knocks in 2018 showed Chubb arriving in Cleveland for his rookie training camp, waiting for baggage at Hopkins International Airport, unassuming and unnoticed. A passenger struck up a conversation with him and learned he was a new Browns player.

“Really? What position do you play?” the passenger asked Chubb.

It took former teammate Duke Johnson about a week into Chubb’s first training camp to nickname him “Old School” because of Chubb’s demeanor, work ethic, dress code, and reverence of the game.

Chubb has had many long runs, several for touchdowns, and he routinely ends them by flipping or handing the ball to the nearest official.

“He’s one of the persons – you know how they say ‘act like you’ve been there before’ – he’s the best at acting like he’s been there before,” Hunt said.

I asked Chubb if he has ever spiked the football after a touchdown or celebrated with a unique gesture.

“I never spiked the ball before,” he said, annoyed by the question. “It doesn’t cross my mind. I just don’t think about it.

“I enjoy watching guys celebrate. I think it’s cool. As long as they don’t get carried away.”

When Rashard (Hollywood) Higgins strolls down the red carpet with teammates flashing imaginary cameras after a touchdown, Chubb will not be among them.

“Nick really does a good job of maintaining his composure in whatever situation it is, maintaining his emotion, and he has an internal desire to be good,” said coach Freddie Kitchens.

“He recognizes that it is just one play. It is kind of just how you perform on that one play and just the magnitude of that play is a small part of the game.

“No, I am not surprised he keeps his emotions in check because I think he feels that is the way he performs the best, and I think he is always going to do what he thinks is best to perform his best.”

All about team: It’s not just positive emotion that Chubb keeps in check. When he fumbled on consecutive carries in the rain against New England, he never so much as kicked the dirt.

The first was a fluke caused when guard Joel Bitonio’s foot kicked the ball out of his hands while falling to the ground. The second was tomahawked out of his hand from behind by New England’s Jonathan Jones chasing the play.

Officials were still unpiling bodies scrambling for the loose ball while Chubb dejectedly walked back to the Browns’ sideline. Later he said he never wanted to feel that way again.

“I felt he was angry, but it wasn’t anything he said or did,” Bitonio said. “He’s just the same guy when he scores a touchdown or fumbles. It’s impressive. I like the way he plays the game.”

When Chubb was assessed losses of nine yards on his final two carries in the 16th game last year to finish the season at 996 yards, he blamed himself for leaving yards on the field on his very first carry of his rookie season, not his last.

And then when Chubb surpassed 1,000 yards this year in the Pittsburgh game --making him the only Browns running back other than Jim Brown to hit the magic number in 10 games – here is what he said:

“I have to credit my linemen for opening holes and doing everything right. Everybody plays a part in that – receivers, quarterback, the line, tight ends. It’s not just me. It’s a reflection of the team.”

In this very difficult season of unmet expectations, the Browns have tarnished their brand by complaining, taunting, preening, kicking, fouling, head-butting and swinging a helmet at an unprotected opponent.

All of which has obscured the shining gem of a player they have in Chubb.

If only they would follow his lead.

“I want to do whatever I can to help my teammates any way I can and just win games at the end of the day,” Chubb said. “Nothing else matters to me than my team and winning.”