fbpx

Listen to the podcast here

 

PPDC 60 | Competitive Mindset

 

An admirable athlete never backs down in the face of many adversities. In this episode, RJ Hubert of Utah Utes Football shares how his competitive mindset helps him succeed both on and off the field. He sits down with Dan Clark to open up about growing up with a broken family and his history of injuries that stopped him in his tracks. RJ explains how these experiences inspired him to jump back every time he gets knocked down, pushing through any competition he faces along the way. He also talks about his missionary work, his pre-game rituals, and how his wife friend-zoned him when they first met.

This episode is sponsored by Performance Automotive of Bountiful . Thank you for supporting Talkin’ Utes and Utah athletes.

RJ Hubert Shares How His Competitive Mindset Helps Him Succeed Both On And Off The Field

Top football players in my mind, country and the world, and even though we’re taking them from the Roster of the University of Utah, because I’m an alumnus and I played football in baseball there, it’s not just an honor and a privilege for me to interview this young man, but it’s an opportunity for me to ask the questions from the section wherein I sit on the 50-yard line 4th row. Thank you very much. Ask the questions that the fans want to know because when you see an elite athlete like Mr. Hubert competing at the highest level, you see more than muscle and bone going through the motion.

You see heart, sacrifice, and work ethic. You see a young man who has put in much time and learned the steps of resiliency through injury, heartache, or the ups and downs of winning the thrill of victory in the agony of defeat, that it’s about time that we take them out of their uniforms so you can see that they are handsome dogs.

You remove that helmet, take off the pads, and you see that they are character-based young men who came from great homes and were raised with values that we’re all proud of reminding them that they are the University of Utah. We are the message. When they speak, they represent all of us. As I’ve studied up on my dear friend, RJ Hubert, ladies and gentlemen, you need to know as we start this interview, he’s exactly the same of the field as he is on-field, competitive, fire plug, focused, love of the game, family, and God. This episode is brought to you by Performance Automotive, a number-one fan and supporter of the University of Utah Running Utes.

It’s good to have you here.

It’s great to be here. It’s an honor and privilege on my part.

You came from a little teeny town outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, and went to Moapa Valley High School. Tell us about growing up in your family and the size of your school and graduating class.

I grew up with my mom and my stepdad, mainly and with all my sisters.

How many?

I have six sisters in total, but I grew up with three of them. I have three half-sisters that I didn’t live with. My mom taught me a lot about women and how to live around and with them. That’s helped me a lot in my marriage now. I’m grateful for that. I grew up in that household. My mom was very loving and patient with me. I had some issues in my childhood in terms of my attitude, anger, and stuff like that. Her calmness and patience were able to help me to become a better person and to instill qualities in me that would be valuable to teaching my children later on in life. That was very helpful.

Moapa Valley High School is a farming community. I love that place. It’s got such a special spirit about it. When you come up over that hill and drop down into the valley, there’s nothing like that feeling. I’ve noticed that a lot as I’ve gone and returned back to there after having moved away. Moapa Valley High School is a small school. It had about 530 students when I was there.

Is that 9 through 12 or 7 through 12?

That’s 9 through 12. It’s 530 in total. My graduating class was about 130.

They miss you. They’re like, “Where’s RJ? We hated it when he went away.”

We’re down a number. It’s a small town. Everybody knows each other and each other’s business a little bit as well. That’s how that goes in a small town. It’s a special place.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, traveling to America in about 50 states. When I come into a small town, sometimes the mindset is, “You have to live small because you’re in a small town.” We remind ourselves, “It’s not the size of the dog and the fight. It’s the size of the fight and the dog. It’s not the size of your town, it’s the size of your dream.” When did you realize that you wanted to play big-time or Division 1 football?

I always loved football as a little kid. When I started playing, I always had a lot of doubts because I was from a small town that I wasn’t as good as I hoped to be. My athletic ability wasn’t validated until I started competing against the big-time competition in high school in camps, track meets, and stuff like that. It’s not even on the football field, but going to camps throughout the country and competing against people in track meets that I understood, “I’m athletic enough to keep up and maybe I can do this at the next level.”

I always had that dream when I was younger. In the 6th or 7th grade, I used to watch college football. I looked forward to Saturday mornings. I would turn on ESPN, CBS, Fox, or whatever game was on first and I would watch. I would sit in my room for hours with the TV on, doing my own laundry and watching the games. At that point, I realized, “I want to go do this. This is my dream.” College football is always been my favorite sport.

Once I got to high school, I gave up some of the distractions around me like video games. I stopped playing video games as much. I focused on working out more, lifting weights, throwing with my quarterback, and stuff like that to get in shape and develop the ball skills and put myself out there to get recruited.

In high school, you played wide receiver and running back, but you were also on the defensive side as well. You played both ways in a small town.

I played wide receiver and running back. Sometimes they had me in at quarterback, like for two-point conversion attempts. I would play corner, safety, and sometimes, linebacker. I was a punter-turner or kicker-turner. Sometimes I even punted. I’m not worth a dang.

You probably played tuba in the marching band. You had to get out of the halftime talk to go out there and perform a little bit.

I’m a lousy musician.

Give us your stats. How tall are you and how much do you weigh?

I am proudly 5’11 and 3 quarters.

How high do you high jump?

The best I’ve ever high jumped was 6’7 foot.

That’s unbelievable. In the last play of the game, the Hail Mary, I watched you when you got that running start and you leaped. You used every bit of your high jumping ability and sort over. Did you watch the game film?

I have watched it already.

You sort over the entire pile and knocked that ball. That was such an athletic move.

After the game, I and my wife were sitting there at 1:00 AM and I was, “I am not tired. I’m going to watch the game. I’m going to watch a TV copy of the game.” That’s what I did.

What a great game. In 100 meters, you’re 11.3. That’s pretty fast.

I don’t feel like that was my potential. The last time I ran was I was a sophomore in high school. I was mainly a hurdler, a high jump, and a long jumper.

It’s a 110-yard hurdle.

Those were my main events. I ran the 100-meter in my sophomore year. I stopped running it later on, but I think I would’ve gone sub-11, maybe in 7, 10, or 8 had I kept with it and practiced at it.

We all know the difference in game speed when you get that adrenaline kicking in. Now that we know, what we need to do is time you do the 70-yard sprint because you don’t have to go 100 meters or 70 yards and then make sure your teammates don’t run into you and everything’s good.

They like to give me crap for that. I should have scored that, but it is what it is. We still ended up getting points.

You still set a record and we were proud. It was awesome. We’ve all heard that big players make big plays and big games. Sometimes big players in big games get injured. Let’s take us back. You’ve had this injury-riddled career and came out of high school committed to the University of Utah in 2016. Take us through a little string of some of the injuries you had that derailed your season or stopped you in your tracks. I want to know the mindset and heart-set required to come back when you’re down.

I was offered and committed in 2015 in the fall of my senior year of high school and in the state championship game on the 21st of November-ish. I dislocated my knee and tore my MCL. This was in high school. That was in the third quarter of the state championship game. At that point, it was tied or something like that. We ended up losing the game by one touchdown. That was heartbreaking. I had that injury. I went on my official visit the next weekend to Utah and I talked to Freddie.

They were talking about the injury a little bit. He’s like, “There’s no ACL damage, right?” I was like, “No.” They’re like, “That’s good to know. It’s not too serious.” I ended up running that next track season and I won state in two events there. I came back from that injury. I went on my mission and had time to heal and I came back. In 2018, my freshman year, I was mainly on special teams.

I didn’t make the two deep. In a drill on a Thursday practice, which is usually light, I ended up breaking my leg, my fibula, in a collision with Bronson Boyd in a punt drill. That sidelined me for six weeks. I came back six weeks later for the Arizona State game and finished the season playing special teams. That was my freshman year in 2018. In 2019, I was pretty free of injury until the Pac-12 Championship Game. Julian Blackmon tore his ACL. I went in for him and played free safety.

As number 31?

I was ten at that point. In the first year, I was 31. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, I was number 10. I went in for Julian and two drives later, we force a punt. I’m on the punt return team and I’m holding somebody up. My knee buckled gives out and I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus on the same knee, all with the same impact at one time. The crazy thing is that I was in denial that I jogged from the far side of the field back to the sideline. I was like, “I’m good.” I was telling the doctors I’m good like, “I can go back in. I’m fine.” They’re looking at my knee, moving it around, doing the test, and like, “You’re not fine.”

I had surgery in January 2020. The 2020 season we all know is a weird season with five games. I was technically back, but I was at a point where I wasn’t rehabbing or I didn’t have enough time to rehab to get back for the next game. I was like, “I would love to play. I know I’m physically capable, but I can’t recover in time. My knees have gone through too much trauma,” or my left knee and my right knee hadn’t at all at that point.

After the 2020 season, I’m poised to be the starter in spring ball. I’m running with the ones as free safety. Spring ball goes great. I end up tearing my right ACL in the spring game. I had been all through spring ball, the spring game tore my ACL and that ruled me out for the entire season. I sat and did my rehab in the training room while the rest of the team practiced. I had this focus in my mind like, “I’m not done yet. There’s more coming. I have to be resilient. I have to put in the work every single day and I can’t waiver at all. If I’m going to commit to this like I’ve told my twelve-year-old self, I need to be on top of everything. I need to be all in.”

I work my butt off to rehab, both knees at that point because I had gone through much trauma in my left knee through the surgery. They had repaired so much. The meniscus was shredded and then my right knee was more recent. I worked on strengthening those and getting them more stable. Come 2022, I’m back. Here I am now. I’m grateful to be on the field. I don’t take any game for granted.

In the real world, how would you counsel someone who’s lost a job or loved one, going through a devastating divorce or anything that seems catastrophic in our lives? As an athlete, I was seriously injured as well. It ended my career. It’s easy to get down. It’s easy to say, “Woe is me,” and blame God or others. Teach us a little bit about your mindset. Did you learn that from your mom or your sisters? How early on in your life did you realize that you could get back up and go again no matter how many times you’re knocked down 7 times and get up 8?

I learned that from my mom. My mom is like my rock. I always worked hard to make my mom proud. I wanted to be somebody who rose above my expectations. I came from a childhood where there was almost a broken home. My parents were divorced and I ended up living with my father for a couple of years. He wasn’t around because I was going to school and he would work night shifts. He would sleep during the day while we were home.

It was tough. It was me and my sister at that point. We had to learn to rely on each other. When my mom came and got custody of us, it helped me a lot to realize that my mom had been through a lot as well to get the custody of us and then to deal with having four kids all of a sudden. Not that she didn’t have the four kids, but having custody of them and being with them all the time. She also worked at that time.

The dedication she showed to us and how much she loved us showed me that you can get through anything that you put your mind to. There are some circumstances that will hold you back from that, but I learned a great lesson of resilience, determination, and heart-passion drive from my mom because of the tough things that she had gone through in life and that helped me to apply that to football. I hope that my story can people apply that to their lives.

Learning to be resilient, determined, and passionate through the toughest times allows you to perform at your best in whatever you do. Click To Tweet

Let’s apply that to football. You get beat on a play. How do you come back, forgive yourself, let go, learn the lesson, get back in position, and make a better play next time? How can you quickly let go of the pain, learn the lesson, and fire up and focus again?

Do you know what happened in the fourth quarter?

I know. I’m a fan of the position of safety and you are such a great center fielder. You are so good.

I second-guessed myself. They were either in trips or an empty formation, but there were three receivers to the field side, which was the right. It was two of the corners in me. We knew based on tendencies and formation that they were going to run a screen and I second-guessed it. I saw the guy that Clark was on go somewhere else. I saw my guy go and block the outside corner, and then I didn’t see the other guy go in, but it didn’t matter because I knew the play was coming in beforehand. I second-guessed it and sat on it instead of driving it. Not only that, but when I came up, I missed a tackle and he ended up scoring the go-ahead touchdown to put them up from 42 to 35.

You get over it. You still got six minutes plus to play.

I was disheartened because I didn’t know. They’re winning now and although our offense was doing great, I thought, “I lost the game for the team.” I had to gather myself. My brother is next to me. Mainly, Cole Bishop and Clark Phillips were like, “We’re going to get another chance. We’re going to be all right. We’re going to get the ball back to our offense and they’re going to score.”

At that point, we didn’t know we were going to go for two because there was much time left, but they pat me on the back. I had to realize, “If I get a chance to go in the game again, I can’t let that happen again. I have to be there for my teammates and not second-guess it. I have to trust in my film study and everything that we’ve talked about in our meetings. I have to do my assignment to a T.”

When we got back out there with 40 seconds left, I was like, “I’m going to do everything I can. I’m going to fly around to get to that ball. Whatever I need to do, I’m going to get there.” I didn’t know it was going to be the last play before the ball was snapped, but I saw our defensive front did a great job of getting pressure on right away. I flew to the ball as fast as I could and gave everything I had.

You soared above and beyond. That was a great play, very athletic. Let me take you back into the mission field for a second because I’m a return missionary, proudly. When you have a dream of playing professional football, which we both had, you still have one. You still be playing on Sundays if I have anything. When we decide to break away for two years, what did you learn from that experience?

Tell everybody where you served in Mississippi and Louisiana and 1 or 2 things that you learned from that experience that all of us can learn. We all need to learn as young men to turn from boys to men regardless of our religious tradition or not. When you go on a volunteer basis to serve your fellow mankind and womankind for two years at your own expense. Teach all of us about service before self-mentality which makes us better team players.

I went to the Mississippi Jackson Mission. I served in Forest, Biloxi, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Did you get to go to a football game in Hattiesburg at all?

I did not know. I don’t think I went to any football games. I went to one basketball game in Biloxi, Mississippi because there was a member there that played on the team and he had a lot of teammates that he ended up bringing to church. He brought the whole team to church. That was awesome. I didn’t go to any football games at Southern Miss or anything like that, but what I learned from being a missionary was that it’s not and never about me.

It’s about the collective, the bigger group, the bigger picture, and the world as a whole. Even if it was a drop in a bucket, I felt like I could make a difference there. I did make a difference there in individual lives. I feel like I impacted maybe one individual life here or there that maybe had a butterfly effect. I’m grateful for the time that I spent. I felt like that time was well worth it. Even though some would argue that those were the prime athletic years of my life, there was nothing I would’ve rather done during that period of time.

Britain Covey, Paul Kruger, and Dan Clark are worth it. Let’s get more into the personal side. Every athlete that I know has their own routine to get ready for. I interview Clark Phillips and I’m like, “What music do you listen to? We got Michael Phelps in the Olympics. He’s got his headphones on. He’s bumping, doing his thing, and we find out he’s into rap and hard rock.” I ask Clark Phillips and he goes, “My dad’s a preacher. I listen to the gospel.” Give us the secret sauce. What do you do when you wake up on game day to prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? What’s your routine on game day when you wake up before the game starts?

It would depend on the time of the game.

Let’s say it’s a noon game, which is rapid-fire. You got to get up and get your adrenaline focused and your butterflies flying in formation.

This is a reset thing for me. I have to shower to feel like I’ve started a new day and even if that’s like at the middle of the day if I have to shower at like 1:00 PM or whatever to get like new life inside of me. That’s what I do. I shower, put lotion on, and do my hair. If I don’t shower, I’m going to be all off.

No cold plunges or anything, and that’s after the game.

That’s my biggest thing. I don’t have too many traditions. One of the things that have become a tradition now is FaceTiming my family.

Especially your wife and your two little boys. What are their names?

My wife’s name is Shayla. My oldest boy is Noah and then the younger one’s full name is Isaiah, but we call him Zay.

What’s the love story with your woman? Didn’t she come from another little teeny tiny town outside of Las Vegas?

You’re going to love this. She’s from Alamo, Nevada. This is a sister town of Logandale where I’m from. Her parents went to the same high school I went to, and they ended up moving to Alamo later, which is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from where I live. The wilderness in Nevada that’s pretty close. I met her at a track meet in high school, but we were in middle school. I was going to lift weights after school and she was at the track meet because her mom was a track coach. We run into each other at the practice field. She just caught my eye. I was interested in her right away and I tried to be around her as much as I could while she was there that night and talk to her or whatever.

She went back. I ended up getting her phone number or Snapchat just to talk to her. I was smitten by her. I was lovestruck. She thought of me as a friend. Pretty much all of that middle school time and my high school career, she thought of me as a friend. I shot my shot plenty of times. There were a couple of times when she would leave me in red and not reply.

It wasn’t until after my mission when I became a man that she gave me a real shot. We went on a date. I didn’t hear back from her again for a couple of months. I was like, “One more time.” We started talking a little bit in December of 2018, my freshman year, and the rest is history. We caught fire at that point and started dating. We dated all of 2019 and 2020. In 2021, we got married.

What music do you like and do you listen to it before the game? When you go in, put on your pads, and headset, what do you do to get ready for game time? It’s time to go to battle and time to go to war. What do you do?

The funny thing is I’m not a guy that gets super hyped and got to get the juices flowing. I honestly put my headphones on to not be bothered. A lot of times, I will listen to nothing. I’ll have my headphones on and there won’t be anything playing, but I don’t want to be talked to. I want to get in my zone, serenity, and place of peace. Every now and then, I’ll listen to some stuff like R&B or maybe some hip-hop. Drake is my favorite artist. I’ll listen to that. Other than that, I don’t listen too much.

PPDC 60 | Competitive Mindset

Competitive Mindset: Sometimes, the best way to prepare for a football match is to avoid talking to other people. Just get in your zone and be in your place of peace.

 

It’s good to go over the tendencies and film study, and you put in many hours of preparation. You have a good rep preparing for the game. Second question, what’s your favorite food? If you default and you come home, your beloved wife is not there and no one to help you feed yourself, what food would you cook for yourself? What’s your default food if you’re all by yourself?

This is inspired by my mission. I love jambalaya. I love all the components of it. I love the sausage, shrimp, vegetables, and spice more than anything. I love spicy food. It’s between that and Mexican food.

You can cook that yourself.

My wife gets mad at me. She gets mad that I don’t cook because I’m a good cook. I’m like, “I just don’t like to do it. I’m good at it, I know, but it’s laborious.”

Last question, what’s your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie would have to be a funny movie.

You laugh and chill out.

I go back to the Beauty and the Beast live-action from 2017. It came out while I was on my mission. I didn’t see it until I got home from my mission. I watched it and I was like, “This is the best movie I’ve ever seen. This is incredible.” I’ve probably watched it 150 times since then. I love that movie and so does my wife.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. We have RJ Hubert. What’s your dream when you get out of the University of Utah? He’s been on the Pac-12 academic list twice. He’s smart and talented, and he never says never. He is wanted, important, livable, and capable, and he can succeed. Where do you see yourself a year from now?

What are you studying in school? What’s your professional pursuit? There’s a good chance you could still play. We know that you got the right body type and you got the leap still. You haven’t lost your hops. You got the right attitude, focus, and desire. In a snapshot, tell us about what your dream is, what your major is, and where you think you’re going.

I’ve already graduated. I majored in Communication and I minored in Spanish. I learned Spanish on my mission. I took five years of Spanish prior to my mission. My mission helped a lot to get more fluent in Spanish. A year from now, I would like to be playing on Sundays. I like to be in the NFL. That’s always been my dream. I feel like that would not only be important for me and for my dreams, but from the small town I came from. I feel like making those people proud, giving them a jersey to wear and a team to root for. Somebody from Moapa Valley making it to the NFL would be something to brag about.

I want to make the valley and my family proud and be able to take care of them as well. That’s what I want to do. Other than that, I’ve always been more interested in entrepreneurial-type of endeavors. I want to take care of my family. I know that those would be great ways to do that, but I also want to be able to spend time with my family and be at my own mercy when I need time off. That’s what I’ve been leaning toward.

RJ Hubert, superstar number eleven, extraordinary safety, taught us that when you put focus on everybody else, your life turns out exactly as you wanted it to. A good friend of mine and mentor, Zig Ziglar reminds us what you’re about. You can get anything in this life that you want if you’re willing to help enough other people get what they want.

When I watch you play out there, flying, so intense, focused on every play, you can tell it’s all about you don’t want to let anybody down, especially yourself, your teammates, and your family. I’m proud to meet you and I’m so glad you are in this program. All of us get a glimpse behind the doors of RJ Hubert. Let’s cheer you on for the rest of your life. Thank you so much.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

 

Important Links

 

About RJ Hubert

PPDC 60 | Competitive Mindset2022: Started all eight games at safety. Tied for the team lead with 53 tackles (2.0 TFL), adding two forced fumbles and one recovery. Also defended four passes (two INT, two PBU). Was named a semifinalist for the 2022 William V. Campbell Trophy. Batted down USC’s final pass of the game to secure the comeback win over the No. 7-ranked Trojans. It capped a nine-tackle night for Hubert, his third straight game with at least nine takedowns. Had a career-best 12 tackles and a Rice-Eccles Stadium record 70-yard interception return came in the Homecoming win vs. Oregon State.


0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.