Sam Hubbard and the Cincinnati Bengals are 60 minutes away from being Super Bowl Champions. At the beginning of the season, this moment would have been seen as a major improbability. Now, the Bengals are a win over the Los Angeles Rams away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
For Cincy’s star players like Hubbard, Joe Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase, this is a chance to reach the pinnacle of the sport and establish a championship legacy.
For the Bengals as a whole, at least according to Hubbard, it’s also a chance to honor… Harambe?
Sam Hubbard says the Cincinnati Bengals want to win the Super Bowl for Harambe
Harambe was a gorilla who once resided in The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. In May of 2016, a three-year-old boy found his way into Harambe’s habitat and encountered the 400-pound animal, who grabbed hold of the child and pulled him around and through the water at the edge of the exhibit. Harambe was shot and killed to protect the child.
The incident was recorded and spread like wildfire through the internet, and ultimately the zoo received massive backlash for the use of lethal force Harambe became a cult hero of sorts. Some of it was genuine outrage from animal rights activists. Some of it was the internet being the internet, as the slain gorilla became the topic of memes.
Speaking of memes, Hubbard was asked by “PFT Commenter” of Barstool Sports if there had been any discussion in Cincinnati’s locker room about “winning this one for Harambe.”
Hubbard took the bait and provided a quote fitting of Super Bowl Media Day.
“Sweet Prince. That’s our guy. That’s our hero,” Hubbard said. “I think that’s known, kind of goes without saying. You know, we’re doing this for him.”
Hubbard was asked if things would have gone differently on that fateful day if he was there at the zoo instead of on Ohio State’s campus. Would he have been able to rescue the small child without having to use lethal force on Harambe?
“I think so. Yeah, that would have added to the Cincinnati legend,” Hubbard said with a smile.
Hubbard has been a huge part of the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl
Memes and semi-serious interviews aside, Hubbard was being interviewed by “Pardon My Take”, arguably one of the most popular sports podcasts out there, because he’s played a major role in getting the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
Burrow is the face of the franchise and Chase is the superstar. With that said, Hubbard is in just his fourth season with the Bengals, so he’s still a young player, and he’s coming off an excellent campaign.
Hubbard notched 62 tackles (33 solo), 7.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 17 quarterback hits this season. He followed that up with an impressive postseason run that saw him notch three sacks, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, one pass defended, and one forced fumble. He came up huge in Cincinnati’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Not only did he sack Patrick Mahomes twice, but both of those sacks came on Kansas City’s last drive in regulation. Hubbard single-handedly forced the Chiefs back from a 2nd-and-goal on the 9-yard-line to a 4th-and-goal from the 26. Instead of potentially securing the game-winning touchdown, Kansas City was forced to kick a field goal that sent the game into overtime, where the Bengals ultimatly won.
The Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56
The fact that the Bengals are in this position is almost meme-worthy on its own. This is a team that went 2-14 in head coach Zac Taylor’s first season (2019) and finished 4-11-1 last season.
The Bengals had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and they made the decision to draft Burrow out of LSU, which ended up changing the franchise’s fortunes for the better, and almost immediately.
Burrow’s rookie season was cut short due to an ACL tear he suffered in Week 11 when he was rolled up on after a throw. He showed plenty of promise in year one, but the Bengals were still a major question mark heading into his season.
Burrow started in Week 1 for Cincinnati and he nor the Bengals ever looked back.
Burrow threw for 4,449 yards and 34 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. His favorite target was undoubtedly Chase, who the Bengals drafted with the fifth overall pick out of LSU. Chase had won the national championship with Burrow in 2019 at LSU and was part of one of the most explosive offenses in college football history. Chase finished the 2021 season as one of the better wide receivers in the league, catching 81 balls for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He caught a touchdown catch in Cincinnati’s AFC title game win over the Chiefs. For his part, Burrow has thrown four touchdowns compared to two interceptions on this postseason run.
“The thing about Joe and myself is that we’re winners. We’ve won our whole lives,” Hubbard recently told the media, per 247Sports. “I’ve been pretty miserable along with my teammates for the last few years losing so many games. I told Joe, ‘We need you. You’re the guy to turn this around, I know it.’ He embraced that. What are the odds that a kid from Athens, Ohio, is a national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, prime to be the No. 1 overall pick and we happen to have it?
“You can’t even write stories like this. It’s amazing.”