Alex Mack is the world’s foremost expert on Ahtyba Rubin.
Mack, the Browns center, has spent more than a year facemask to facemask and chest to chest with Rubin, Cleveland’s nose tackle. So when Mack speaks, he should get the E.F. Hutton treatment.
“The man’s an anvil,” Mack said. “He’s hard to move out of there.”
Despite being 6-foot-2, 330 pounds, Rubin is one of the most invisible players on the Browns. He toils at a thankless position, spent most of his first two years in the NFL giving Shaun Rogers a rest and doesn’t seek the spotlight.
Rubin started to receive some recognition when Rogers broke a leg in late November last season and the run defense improved during a closing four-game winning streak with Rubin as the starter. Rogers is still recovering from the injury, so Rubin worked with the first-team defense throughout training camp and the first two preseason games.
A return date for Rogers isn’t known, and he faces a possible league suspension after being caught with a gun at an airport. Rubin will be counted on heavily.
“I think Rube has looked good all camp,” coach Eric Mangini said.
“He’s such a barrel-chested guy and he gets in there,” Mack said. “He’s hard to move when he anchors down. He’s a good player.”
Rubin has developed into one of the best draft picks of the Phil Savage era. The former general manager picked him in the sixth round in 2008 out of Iowa State because he had the potential to clog the middle in the 3-4 scheme. Rubin played 12 games as a reserve as a rookie, totaling 20 tackles and a fumble recovery. He started five and played in 16 games last year, with 38 tackles and a forced fumble.
“I always had that feeling that I wanted to play football, and I finally got that chance and just try to one step at a time achieve my goals,” Rubin said. “It’s a blessing I got here this far.
“It was a little discouraging at times (as a rookie), just the speed of the game and the strength of the players. Eventually I came around and I feel comfortable where I am now.”
The strong finish to 2009 for Rubin and the team led many to suggest making him the starter and moving Rogers to end. The coaches will experiment with this alignment, but Rogers will be the starting nose tackle when he returns.