Navy's Kubiak makes right call After a bad bounce, QB gets his dream

September 10, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- For Jim Kubiak, it began with a feeling of hope nearly three years ago when, after just a year as starting quarterback at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, N.Y., a recruiter from Connecticut was at his doorstep requesting his services.

"They came down [the first week of the recruiting period] and said, 'We're going to offer you a scholarship,' " Kubiak recalled of the meeting at the start of his senior year. "I didn't have any other offers. I said, 'This is early, maybe I might get some more.' "

So Kubiak waited. And waited. And several weeks later, with no better offers in hand, he visited the Connecticut campus intending to commit.

"They treated me real well the first day, but on the second day it was like I didn't have a name," Kubiak said. "Then the coach called me in and started telling me a story about a player who took too long to sign, and how he now had to pay his own way to college. He never said directly it was me. But there was no scholarship, and I didn't know where to go."

The story has a happy ending for Kubiak and the Naval Academy. Kubiak spent the next season at the Naval Academy Prep School and last year, after beginning the season on the junior varsity/plebe team, became the starter midway through the season.

At Navy, Kubiak realized his dream of being a Division I quarterback. In Kubiak, Navy got a quarterback who is effective throwing the football -- something coach George Chaump has longed for since his arrival just more than two years ago.

"He's bigger, stronger and he's throwing the ball with more authority," Chaump said. "But the big thing is he's better prepared mentally and has the awareness of what's happening on the other side of the football. I look for Jim Kubiak to develop into a . . . well, I don't know if great is the word," Chaump added, carefully. "Just let him prove himself. He does have the ability to prove himself very favorably."

The expectations are based in part on Kubiak's performance last season after being called up to the varsity. He started five games and completed 93 of 154 passes for 957 yards. In the next-to-last game of the season against Wake Forest, Kubiak completed 49 of 70 passes (70 percent) for 563 yards.

Impressive numbers, but Kubiak, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, realizes there's room for a lot of improvement.

"Making decisions was my big problem," said Kubiak, who, heavily blitzed, threw 11 interceptions last season. "When I first came up I didn't know where to go and I was definitely trying to force the ball. But as the season went on, I kept learning."

Learning has been a part of his agenda for the past six years -- Kubiak stayed away from organized football until his freshman year in high school.

"I was a chunky kid -- in the fifth grade I was 140 pounds -- and all the teams were weighted teams," Kubiak said. "I was 10 and I would have been playing with guys 14 and 15."

Instead of tussling with the bigger boys, Kubiak decided to play baseball and basketball. But by the time he got to high school he wanted to give football a shot. And he decided to play quarterback.

"I had a decent arm," Kubiak said. "By the end of my sophomore year I decided to cut out either baseball or football. I got stronger and more confident and figured [football] would be my ticket to go to college."

It proved to be a wise choice. He was all-state by the end of his senior season, including one performance they still talk about in western New York when Kubiak rallied his team from a 22-point deficit against Rochester's Edison Tech High School.

"We couldn't run against this team, but we ended up beating them when Jim threw three touchdown passes in a row," said his high school coach, Jerry Smith. "It was phenomenal. It just solidified the aspect that he was something special."

"Last year being a plebe was difficult and time consuming, but I also felt there wasn't enough cohesion to bring us to a point to where we can really work together," Kubiak said. "This year is a different game. A lot of guys who I played with last year, we grew together. That makes a big difference."

Another difference you'll find in Kubiak is the lack of the "rah-rah" attitude evident last season when several players publicly predicted an 11-0 season.

"For the last couple of years guys have said we're going to turn it around this year, and people get sick and tired of hearing that," Kubiak said. "I believe in my heart that we have what it takes."

Kubiak is confident he can do his part in leading the offense.

"Probably this year I've come more into my own than any year," Kubiak said. "My feet and footwork are coming together, and my arm is as strong as it's ever been."

A starter for a Division I-A team as a freshman, it seems all has turned out just fine for a guy who three years ago was admittedly scared about his football future. "This was in the cards for me. Everything worked out for the best and there's no place I'd rather be," Kubiak said.

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