As an inquisitive kid growing up in Nederland, Baylor center Stefan Huber spent a lot of time observing how diligently his father went about his business.
Dr. Tighe Huber is a family physician in the southeastern Texas city of about 18,000 that sits 22 miles from the Louisiana border.
Stefan watched how his father selflessly took care of his patients and how swiftly he reacted whenever they needed him regardless of the hour of the day.
“He was always on call and there for his patients,” Stefan said. “Sometimes he got calls in the middle of the game, but I understood that’s part of his job. It’s an honor to be a doctor, and he really loves it.”
Stefan plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a family physician. If it’s in the cards, he’d enjoy practicing medicine in a smaller city like the one he grew up in.
But first he wants to finish his Baylor career with a flourish. After an injury-plagued career, the 6-4, 295-pound senior center relishes his opportunity to start for one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
Huber has watched a talented line of centers march through the Baylor football program in the last five seasons including Denver Broncos draft picks J.D. Walton and Philip Blake. Huber is following Ivory Wade, but has learned from all his predecessors.
“They’ve all been a really big influence,” Huber said. “J.D. was a senior and the leader of the line when I came, so I learned a lot about Baylor football from him. I played behind Philip Blake and he was a great center, and Ivory also did a great job. I want to uphold the tradition and push it as far as I can, and try to make it a little better.”
But long before he met any of his Baylor teammates, Huber had already followed in his own family tradition of offensive linemen.
His father played center for the Texas Longhorns from 1971-74 during a highly successful period of the school’s football history under Darrell Royal. Tighe Huber was a reserve center who blocked for legendary Texas backs Roosevelt Leaks and Earl Campbell.
Though Tighe played for a powerhouse, he wishes he would have gotten more from his opportunity.
“I was there during the glory years back when they were killing other schools,” Tighe said. “Honestly, I tell both of my boys that I didn’t make the most of my college years. I kind of went through a phase where I got burned out on it. Back then big schools like Texas and Oklahoma stockpiled all the talent and the coaches got down on me and I didn’t work hard. I blame myself.”
Though Tighe didn’t push Stefan or his older brother Trevor into football, they loved it once they started playing. Like their father, they were big guys who gravitated toward the offensive line.
“They were typical brothers who fought all the time,” Tighe said. “Trevor was meaner and more aggressive, and that served him well on the football field. Stefan was a big kid with a huge heart. He grew into his ability, but was always a real gentleman. He gets as aggressive as he needs to be. They’re very close now.”
All in the family
Trevor, who is 2½ years older than Stefan, played high school football and is now a fourth-year medical student working toward his degree at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Playing three seasons for the Nederland varsity, Stefan developed into a Class 4A all-state guard. With such a tradition of offensive linemen in the family, Stefan always pushed himself to a higher standard.
“Dad talked with me a lot and always wanted me to push myself to be better,” Stefan said. “He said, ‘Don’t set limits for yourself. Go beyond what you think you can do.’ He taught me it’s a physical position, and you’ve got to have a certain tenacity to play offensive line.”
Stefan got considerable attention from college coaches as he was recruited by schools like Texas, SMU and Baylor. After Texas backed off Stefan, he appeared to be leaning toward SMU before he met Baylor coach Art Briles, offensive line coach Randy Clements and offensive tackle Jason Smith who would become the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.
“They had invited him to one of their football camps,” Tighe said. “His eyes were pretty big and impressed. He just fell in love with Baylor. I told him it was a great school, and he said it was the place for him.”
Eager to make an impact on Baylor’s offensive line, Stefan couldn’t have predicted the injuries he would have to deal with throughout his college career. Some of the things he learned in his health and science classes became all too familiar.
After redshirting during the 2009 season, Stefan played in the first two games in 2010 behind starting center Philip Blake before suffering a knee injury.
Stefan recovered from that injury and saw action as a backup center in 2011. But he went down with a midseason shoulder injury that kept him out the rest of the season and throughout the following spring.
Though Stefan recovered to play last season, Wade earned the starting center spot. Despite the setbacks, Stefan was always optimistic that he’d eventually earn a starting job.
“Setbacks are always tough, especially my sophomore year when I was looking to come in my junior year and compete with Ivory Wade at center,” Stefan said. “But it gave me a chance to step back and commit myself to work harder. I just don’t want to be the best at this university, I also want to be the best in the country at my position.”
After starting spring drills at right guard, Stefan moved to center when Kelvin Palmer switched to right tackle following Troy Baker’s knee injury. Stefan has been a force on the offensive line for a Baylor attack that leads the nation with 736.5 yards and 69.5 points per game.
Briles is proud of the way Huber has fought through so much adversity to become a starter as a senior.
“Stefan is a perfect example of why you play college football, in my mind,” Briles said. “He has a great passion for the game and he’s a battler. He’s persevered. I tell him all the time just outlast people. If you just do right and hang on and be there at the end of the day, after about 900 of them you have a chance to be the guy.”
Rapport with Petty
Stefan has developed a great rapport with fourth-year junior quarterback Bryce Petty who sat behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence for three seasons before getting his shot to play. They both understand the value of patience and perseverance.
“My hat’s off to him because he’s waited just like I have,” Petty said. “We’ve been together four years and it’s been a special relationship. He’s a smart guy and knows what we need to do up front. It’s good to see him get the opportunity and make the best of it.”
Stefan likes the cohesiveness the Baylor offensive line has created with All-America left guard Cyril Richardson, right guard Desmine Hilliard, left tackle Spencer Drango and Palmer at right tackle. With Baker expected back for the Oct. 5 Big 12 opener against West Virginia, the offensive line should be even stronger.
No glory needed
“We have really good chemistry and a good group of guys,” Stefan said. “When you talk to offensive linemen, they love their position. I don’t like a lot of glory, so it’s perfect. There’s a certain pleasure when you physically move someone from point A to point B. You make a hole for a guy to move through and you’re working together as a unit.”
While Stefan hopes to get his shot to play in the NFL, his greatest ambition is to go to medical school and become a doctor. He received his bachelor’s degree in health science studies from Baylor in May and is now working on a master’s degree in public health.
Tighe said becoming a doctor has been Stefan’s dream since he was a little kid, and he believes the discipline and patience he’s learned from playing college football will help him deal with the demands of medical school.
“Playing college football is so intense,” Tighe said. “They work out year-round, so it’s like having a second job. They pay a heavy price, and going into medicine is the same way. You want them to work hard and have a passion for it. But you don’t try to talk somebody into that because it’s too hard.”
Seeing how his father has cared for his patients as a family physician throughout the years, Stefan is eager to create his own niche when he begins practicing medicine.
“God has a plan for me and I will pursue it,” Stefan said. “If it’s the NFL I will do that, but I really think my call is in medicine and helping people. I just feel I can do a whole lot more to help the community in the medical field. You’re really part of the community when you’re a family physician.”
Getting to know Huber
* Has played in 23 games
* Graduated in May with health sciences degree
* Father Tighe Huber played at Texas