February 2008

One on One with William Cubbage

Author: Steve Flannery

William Cubbage is a whirlwind. Meeting this Celebrate Hilton Head correspondent at a busy island eatery, smack dab in the middle of Shelter Cove Plaza, our special lad is finding it hard to sit still. Impressively lean and decked out in the garb of today’s youth, (fleece hoodie pullover and jeans) he follows my lead on the way to the counter and even listens intently to my mini-dissertation on how to choose the proper chips to accompany our “Giant” subs. (Note to chip purists—Fritos ingredients: corn, corn oil, salt. ’Nuff said.) Witnessing his energy firsthand, it’s easy to see how he can fit so much into his final year at high school. He’ll soon be leaving for a basketball tournament in Orlando; Mom is taking him down and the rest of the clan is meeting them there for a family vacation.

At first glance you would forget that today’s athlete is all about size. Bigger is better. Football players today are massive linemen and quarterbacks that rival the linemen of twenty years ago. The smaller athlete, like a Doug Flutie and to the same extent, the William Cubbages of the land, are remnants of the past that remind us just how big and strong today’s college and pro athletes really are. I actually heard a TV broadcaster say over the weekend that a 280 pound tight end was “undersized.” Compared to what? A grizzly? Today’s American appetite for size has led us to the BIG GULP! SUPERSIZE ME! Teams want their players as large as they can get them; ala Captain Kirk to Scottie—“We need more POWER!” So sayonara to the little man; no room on the gridiron for any more Doug Fluties.

As a shopper at the Big and Tall shop, (Alright, for those of you who don’t know me, the operative word is BIG.) I guess I don’t have the right to be critical of our need for girth. (Hey, I’m not just the president of the company, I’m also a client!) But let’s be fair, the smaller—okay—normal-sized man has his place in the pantheon of sports, and William Cubbage is just the candidate.

My idea to talk to this young man ultimately sprang out of a recent event I worked. I helped serve a team meal to a group of prep school athletes the night before a state championship football showdown with their cross-town rivals. If you ask me, it looked a lot like a Doug Flutie convention, sans the screaming fans and Wheaties boxes yearning to be autographed. It was a well-mannered bunch as well. A coworker remarked that he’d never been subjected to more “Yes Sirs’” and “No Sirs” in his whole life. (Okay, a polite bunch of Doug Fluties.) One of those men was our young William. I’ve known him his whole life, but seeing him sitting in his chair with military-like posture and the chiseled cheekbones of a well conditioned athlete, it just seemed odd to me that he was an 18-year-old senior in high school… wasn’t he just a kid? Wasn’t I just a kid? Obviously that is no longer the case for either of us. I sat down for a little one-on-one with William Cubbage.

CH2: I know your team recently came up short in “the big game.” If you could play it over would you do anything differently? Did you have any sadness on this being your last football game?

WC: We were leading in the fourth quarter; you really can’t ask much more than that. I’m not sure we’d do anything different other than make the plays, the tackles, the catches or holes in the runs we missed that could have changed the outcome. Plus it wasn’t like it was my last game; I had the Tri-Bowl the next week. So, a tough loss, yeah, but we had our chances… all you can really ask.

CH2: I know you play both ways, it’s a lot of responsibility. Do you feel like you’re the leader or just a leader on the team?

WC: I believe that leaders make big plays to show their leadership. It’s funny, on Hilton Head, football isn’t the biggest sport really; I played a lot of baseball and basketball until they asked me to play football in the eighth grade. I’ve been with the same bunch of guys since then on the football field. I guess you could say that I’ve always just tried to lead by example.

CH2: College athletics? Thinking about trying out as walk on?

WC: I’ve visited Clemson a few times; I really like that campus and I hear from them next week. But to walk on, wow, that would be a dream. I’d really like to participate in the intramural system, play some baseball, other sports too—have some of the experiences that you are exposed to at a big school.

CH2: Any thoughts on the allegations regarding Barry Bonds? Give us your opinion on recent headlines about the use of performance enhancing drugs.

WC: I love baseball, but I just can’t understand how, as an eighth grader, you’re told that these guys are to be emulated, (Did he say emulated?) and when you’re 17 you find out it was all a lie.

CH2: I know you prefer baseball, but as a football player, who do you pick? Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

WC: Definitely Tom Brady. Seeing him in situations that he gets his team out of, it’s amazing to watch.

CH2: You know I have to ask you this… first time you beat your Dad at one-on-one?

WC: Wow, Dad will love this one. I’ve never beaten Dad in One on One. (Shrugs)

*CH2: No way! Really?

WC: (as an afterthought, looking at his shoes) If he wasn’t so dirty… (laughing and looking up at me with a big grin)... but it’s coming.

CH2: Sport you’ve never tried but would like to?

WC: Rugby, I guess—you know, football without pads. I’ve always said if I didn’t have pads I’d be soooo much faster. Those guys are tough tho… I’d guess I’d have to be fast to avoid the tough hits.

CHH: Toughest subject to master in the classroom?

WC: Probably AP (Advanced Placement) Statistics.

CHH: Taking all AP classes?

WC: Not all, but all AP classes are tough. Believe me.

CH2: Aspirations?

WC: I’d like to work somewhere in business, marketing or advertising possibly. Growing up in the restaurant business, (His family owns and operates 211 Park Wine Bar and Bistro.) I’ve seen how tough it can be on my Dad, but I think I could always go into that arena.

CH2: Okay, enough about the future. How about an immediate need for you?

WC: That would definitely be some cash for clothes. I’m in dire need of a few button downs and some pants, too.

CHH: Typical request from any kid heading to college.

WC: That’s me!

We talked briefly about his sister, Whitney, who is attending Furman studying for a degree in mathematics. William spoke proudly of her; he thinks she’ll be working for NASA someday. There were no pregnant pauses or effusive answers; he doesn’t waste time or words. What you’re left with after spending time with this young man is this: William Cubbage possesses a very strong sense of family, self-worth and self-confidence and is looking forward with excitement to his future. All the while when in his presence, you find that you’re just as comfortable with him as he is with himself.

UPDATE: Since this interview, Cubbage was named to the 2007 Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette First Team Offense as a wide receiver; his impressive stat line: Cubbage (5-10, 170, Sr., HHCA)—45 catches, 644 yards, 6 TDs, 2 passing and 2 rushing TDs. The tag line to his placement on the team was: “Shrine Bowl pick’s versatility was key to keeping Eagles’ offense clicking.”

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