Joe Rubin is the man overshadowed by all the incredible statistics. He is Portland State’s 5-foot-11-inch senior tailback who has patiently waited four years to be the featured back in the Vikings’ offense, and now he is reaping the benefits. Rubin is the leading rusher in nation with 876 yards, compiling these yards in only five games this season for an average of 171 per game. However, beyond the godly statistics you will find a man far more fascinating than the numbers that he generates. That is, if he can ever step out of the shadow his numbers cast.
Before you can truly understand who Rubin is you must understand what he had to endure to be in his current situation. Rubin is the featured back in the Vikings’ offense, receiving 172 attempts so far this season. It wasn’t always like this. This is the first season that Rubin has been given the opportunity to carry the load and be the workhorse for his team. Prior to this season he was just another Joe in a crowded backfield.
“This season I have been given the opportunity to be the man,” Rubin said. “I don’t have to split time with another back anymore.”
Last season on way to leading the Big Sky Conference with an average of 204.4 yards per contest Rubin shared carries with Ryan Fuqua, who graduated this past year. That opened the door that Rubin had been knocking on for several years.
Only Rubin didn’t simply stroll through the door coming into this season, he busted it down with a streak of extremely impressive performances. The final hinge came loose in his 356-yard five-touchdown performance against Northern Arizona on Sept. 24.
“He waited patiently to be the tailback and seized his opportunity when he got the chance,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “That is what you want from every one of your players.”
“This year people get to see the product of all the time that I waited,” Rubin said. “I think that I have grown up a lot before this year”
Rubin was effective in prior seasons, averaging five yards a carry last year, but he was never given the constant responsibility of carrying the ball for the Viks nearly every down a rushing play was called. More and more, the Vikings are becoming a rush-first, pass-last offense.
“Until we can pass the ball effectively he is going to be our bread and butter,” Walsh said. “Look for him to be getting 25-30 carries a game.”
When asked about what made him so successful this year, both coach Walsh and Rubin agreed that several factors have played a role, but his physical attributes and being the primary back are most significant reasons.
Rubin is a big, strong, powerful man known to wear defenses down throughout the course of the game, leaving the opposing secondary nearly helpless in the fourth quarter.
“Joe is a physical specimen. He has learned who he is as a running back,” Walsh said. “He is not Barry Sanders and he knows that. Joe plays within in his body and is the kind of back that the secondary is not going to want to tackle.”
Nobody would even volunteer to tackle Rubin and his 225-pound frame because he is such a load to take down. He has the ability to stampede over any defender, no matter the size or strength.
“I have an advantage because I am a power running back. By the fourth quarter, teams don’t even want to try to tackle me,” Rubin said. “I think that the intimidation factor helps before the game even begins.”
The strength that Rubin possess didn’t develop out of thin air. He is very devoted to the weight room and maintaining his stout physique. He’s dedicated to working out those few extra repetitions, which could turn into a few more yards and possibly a few more wins for the Vikings.
The football future of this PSU power runner is still undecided. There is one thing that coach Walsh and Rubin agreed on before even thinking about National Football League endeavors: the here and now. “My future goal is to stay healthy, I am a spark plug for my team and they are leaning on me. I want them to lean on me and I have told them that. I believe that if I am on the field we have a really good chance of winning,” Rubin said.
“I hope that he thinks he is only halfway home,” Walsh said. “We still have six games coming up and we need him to be as effective and efficient as he has been to help us win games.”