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PSU's Kavanaugh and Hubel: Real friends, they've stuck together

This is a story about two quarterbacks whose rivalry has made their friendship grow even stronger through the years.

In 15 years as a college player and coach, Portland State head coach Nigel Burton says he has never seen the likes of it.

I haven't either - and I've been around a lot longer than Burton.

Seniors Connor Kavanaugh and Drew Hubel are, in the words of Burton, running '1A and 1B' on the PSU depth chart at QB.

In 2006, as high school seniors at Lincoln and Corvallis, respectively, Kavanaugh and Hubel were the state's top signal-callers. Kavanaugh was named Class 6A first-team all-state; Hubel led the Spartans to the 5A championship. They were on opposite sides of the ball in the 2007 Les Schwab Bowl.

They wound up as teammates - and roommates for three years - at Portland State. In 2008 and '09, the 6-foot, 185-pound Kavanaugh was a backup as Hubel earned the starting nod under coach Jerry Glanville, throwing for enough yardage (6,358) to rank fifth on the Vikings' career list.

Last season, the 6-5, 205-pound Hubel redshirted after shoulder surgery while Kavanaugh took controls in Burton's run-oriented pistol offense.

Now the two are in competition for playing time for the 2011 season - and getting along famously as always.

'If I end up being the backup and we're winning games, it's fine with me,' Hubel says. 'I'm here to help in any way I can.

'We all saw last year how special Connor is as a quarterback. The important thing to remember is, this is an opportunity to push yourself and push others and see how good you can be. Hopefully in the end, it helps us win games this fall.'

Their body types are dissimilar, and in some ways, their personalities are, too.

'They're two different people,' says Taylor Kavanaugh, Connor's older brother. 'Connor is a very outgoing and active. Drew is, too, but in a different way. He is very controlled, precise, detail-oriented. It's like they're the Odd Couple.'

They are much alike in the classroom, however. Kavanaugh carries a 3.17 GPA in business. Hubel, a 3.8 student, recently was recognized for one of two outstanding senior awards in PSU's criminology and criminal justice department. Hubel is a three-time Big Sky All-Academic winner and three-time Mike Schrunk scholar-athlete of the year recipient.

I've had the pleasure of visiting with both several times over the years, and I can say with no reservations they are outstanding young men.

'I am waiting for the Kavanaughs and the Hubels to write a book on how to raise children,' Burton says. 'I am buying the first edition.

'Connor and Drew are team-first guys - unselfish, smart, talented and supportive of each other. It's a blessing having them around. The way they carry themselves is infectious with their teammates.'

Connor's brother marvels at the relationship between the Viking QBs.

'They have stuck together,' says Taylor, a former player at Oregon State. 'In almost any other situation, the rivalry would be so great in a Division I program at such a premier position, it would deter them from being so close.

'But they've been friends throughout the competition for the last four years, and it's genuine. That's not very common in such a highly competitive situation.'

The younger Kavanaugh recognizes the uniqueness.

'At just about every school you look at, it seems like the starting quarterback and his backup are not very good friends,' he says. 'It's the complete opposite here.

'It's a healthy competition. Drew supports me. I support Drew. We're trying to win a championship. The only way that's going to happen is if we push each other. Drew is like a second pair of eyes for me out there, and I'm the same for him.'

Kavanaugh and Hubel lived together for two years in a dorm and one year in a house they rented together, until Hubel, 23, got married last summer. 'I had no chance after that,' Kavanaugh says with a laugh.

'We're pretty dang close,' Hubel says. 'Now that I'm married, I hang out with him less. Not that I mind - I love my wife - but Connor and I still talk daily, bounce different ideas off each other.

'It's been neat to experience it with someone who has the drive and athletic ability of Connor. He's been pushing me since we were freshman. That's something I'll never forget. He has taught me how to work hard and get after it.'

On Wednesday, the two golfed together.

'It's not just football,' Kavanaugh says. 'There's no reason why we shouldn't be friends off the field. It's unfortunate how sports are these days, where competition is so heated, it affects things off the field.'

Hubel has had two major surgeries - one to a shoulder one to a knee - in the last two years. He is the prototypical dropback passer more suited to Glanville's offense than to Burton's pistol, attack which is ideal for the left-handed, fleet-footed Kavanaugh.

I figured Hubel - who is eyeing a career in law enforcement - might call it a career after the shoulder surgery, looking at a likely reserve role this season. No way, he says.

'I've been invested in this university, and they've invested in me,' Hubel says. 'My heart is with PSU all the way.

'I wasn't going to walk away, especially with the three seniors I came in with who are still here - Connor, (center) Adam Kleffner and (safety) DeShawn Shedd. We're a core group that has stuck together through thick and thin. I wasn't going to leave those guys.'

Burton is glad to have both of his senior QBs.

'We all know what Drew is capable of,' the second-year PSU coach says. 'Connor has a leg up with experience and his command of the offense, but you can see how special Drew is throwing the ball. He's going to get his chances.'

The Vikings, who lose only four starters from the 2010 squad that went 2-9, should be much-improved this season. They're probably not good enough to win the conference championship that Kavanaugh and Hubel are shooting for.

They'll continue making memories, though, to talk about throughout a friendship that seems likely to last a lifetime. That's what college sports should be all about.