From the football field with 80,000-plus fans and NFL scouts
looking on, to mint-condition Spider-Man action figures and a Spider-Man
blanket staring down from their positions on the wall; from watching film on
the team's next opponent to watching the comedic classic "The Little Rascals,"
senior wide receiver Paul Hubbard lives two separate lives — just like his hero
"I'm a football player on Saturdays and a nerd the rest of
the time," said Hubbard, gleaming with pride before his stacks upon stacks of
cartoons and Spider-Man memorabilia.
Standing 6-foot-4 and donning sweats, the lanky Hubbard
practically gives away the fact he's an athlete. Upon entering his apartment,
the impression is all together different: He's a kid with a ridiculous hobby.
At first glance, Hubbard's lair looks more like a museum, or
possibly a Spider-Man gift shop. He hopes to have a room devoted to all of his
Spider-Man stuff when he gets a place of his own. Everywhere you look there's
some homage to his idol.
"He's absolutely in love with [Spider-Man]. There's no
question about it," said senior tight end Andy Crooks, who roomed with Hubbard
It's no coincidence that Spider-Man is his favorite
From the outset Hubbard was intent on climbing and bouncing
off walls. He claims that he skipped a lot of stages, transitioning from
crawling around on the floor, to running and climbing over chairs, tables —
anything that stood in his path.
"What are you doing!?" Paul Hubbard Sr. remembers saying.
"Calm down! You're just so hyper!"
Because of his borderline hyperactive behavior, his dad, who
idolized the web-slinger himself in his younger years, dubbed him Spider-Man.
The connection stuck.
In high school, Hubbard didn't exactly have any meat on his
bones. Coupled with an almost superhuman ability in the triple jump — the elder
Hubbard remembers his son coming within inches of jumping clear out of the
sandpit on one particular occasion — the name Spider-Man only seemed natural.
It didn't hurt that he began collecting everything and
anything that had his web slinging idol on it.
Beyond the physical similarities linking Hubbard with Peter
Parker, they both share the same value system just as they both have duties to uphold in their respective professions. "With great power comes great
responsibility" is the catchphrase of Spider-Man's entire existence. It's a
pretty good indicator of how Hubbard views his own life.
"That's really true especially being in the spotlight as
much as guys like us are," Hubbard said. "You know that wherever you go, people
are watching you. High-school students are watching what you're doing and are probably
going to end up doing the same thing.
"It's a very true movie quote and something that all of us
can live by."
Always smiling, always pleasant, Hubbard laughs when asked
if he too has a dark side.
"I'm not a perfect angel, no way, I still like go out and
have fun, but I do know when there is a limit to that," Hubbard said.
The mistakes that he has made throughout the course of his
life are his equivalent of the black suit.
Whereas Batman is a multibillion dollar man and has it made,
and Superman is invincible and not of this earth, Spider-Man is the most
identifiable superhero, according to Hubbard.
"No other superhero holds a candle to him," Hubbard said.
"He has bills to pay, he can't hold onto a job and has relationship problems."
On top of that, he gets crap from his peers for being
clumsy, timid and a nerd.
Listening to Hubbard retell the storyline of Spider-Man,
it's like he's telling the tale of his own life growing up as the son of two
parents in the Army.
His parents were stationed in Germany for much of Hubbard's childhood,
and since they were in the service, he moved where they were sent. Needless to
say, Hubbard didn't have the same opportunity as some do to build lasting
Instead, he spent his time starting his collection of his
beloved superhero and latching onto the values the comic series taught.
"Watching the TV shows, watching the movies, you learn those
values that you can apply to your own life and make that show a reality," Hubbard
As for the girl, Hubbard doesn't particularly agree with
Peter Parker's taste in women, especially in the motion picture.
"Peter Parker was just 'chasing the dream' when he went
after the popular, image hungry Mary Jane," Hubbard said. "I don't know about
her. I didn't think she was good for Peter to start, but then I guess she
Even now, as evidenced by the mountainous stack of
Spider-Man video games, T-shirts and everything else, the charismatic Hubbard's
still a kid.
"Some people would say, 'You're 22 years old. What are you
doing with all these cartoons? You've got toys hanging off your walls,'"
"I like to do things
a lot of little kids like to do."
And nearly everyone, it seems, has caught on. Teammates and
friends provoke Hubbard to go out and buy new gear all the time. At the Capital
One Bowl last year, John Stocco, then the quarterback of the Wisconsin offense,
told the networks that he was trying to get the ball to "Paul aka Spider-Man."
A little bit over the top? His dad thinks so. Crooks laughs.
Hubbard holds back a grin and says "nah."
If given the chance, he would still fancy running up and
down the aisles of Toys "R" Us to play with all the various gadgets and Nerf
guns on display.
But even kids know when it's time to straighten up and get
serious. Now is that time.
"Because I am still a kid, I feel like that when it is time
for me to have kids I'm going to be a better father because it'll be easier to
relate to them," Hubbard said.
Saturday will be the last time Spidey throws on his costume
(Wisconsin uniform) before the Camp Randall faithful. Paul Sr., Hubbard's
answer to Spider-Man's Uncle Ben, will be in attendance for the first time.
"I'm just antsy to see my pops again," Hubbard said. "I
haven't seen him in so long so I'm thinking there can't be anything that's
going to stop me from having a good game because my dad's out there."
"Right now he's there on Cloud 9," the elder Hubbard said.
His father's emotions are right there with his son.
"My Spidey sense is going wild," he joked. "I can't wait to
get there and watch him play."