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Rubio has high goals for senior Lutheran season

A Sports Illustrated All-American candidate, Lutheran St. Charles’ Gabriel Rubio is a big athlete. At 6-foot-5.5 and 312 pounds, the senior defensive tackle also plans big.

As a junior, the 4-star prospect who is ranked No. 2 in Missouri, has ranked as high as 99th in the nation among recruits. Rubio racked up 117 tackles for the Cougars last season. He had a whopping 46 tackles for loss and recorded 17 sacks.

Rubio was named the Archdiocesan Athletic Association’s small division Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. Rubio also was a Class 3 all-state first-team selection by the Missouri Football Coaches Association.

Gabriel Rubio (Source: Lutheran St. Charles)

For his senior year, the Notre Dame recruit wants to top what he did last year.

“I’ve set some of my goals. I want to get more than 150 tackles,” Rubio said. “I want to get at least five forced fumbles. I want to get at least one interception and I want to get more than 15 tackles for a loss. I’m definitely going to break the sack record of 18 for a season.”

Cougars coach Arlen Harris won’t bet against Rubio achieving his goals.

“He played a huge role last year. He clearly is a leader on both offense and defense, and in our locker room, he leads by example. He proved a lot last year (on) what people assumed (he was) able to do. He proved it week in and week out.

“I don’t think he’s anywhere near where he can be. He’s still growing like a weed. I think this year will be a big year for him as a senior. Hopefully, he’ll put a stamp on his career in a big way before going away to play in college.”

Rubio is the son of former NFL defensive end Angel Rubio. His father played one season with the Arizona Cardinals. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft after playing college football at Southeast Missouri State. He was also a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Orlando Predators, Las Vegas Outlaws, Detroit Fury, Dallas Desperados and Austin Wranglers.

The elder Rubio helps on the Lutheran St. Charles coaching staff, working with the defensive lineman. His son likes learning from his father.

“He teaches me everything. Him having the experience of being an NFL guy and throwing that to the high school guys raises our level of play,” Rubio said. “On the field, he’s a coach. He’s dad when we’re at home relaxing. It’s pretty cool.

“My dad absolutely is an inspiration for me. He came from California and he didn’t have much growing up. He fought his way to the top. That’s all the inspiration that I need. And I like hearing him tell stories of his playing days. That’s all good.”

Harris loves having the elder Rubio on this staff.

“His father is a huge influence on him,” Harris said. “(Gabriel) respects him and looks up to his father. You can’t separate the two. His dad works with him at a high level. Gabriel follows his lead. Having him on our staff is a win-win for me and the kids on our team.”

Rubio has impressed many college recruiters. He received more than 21 college offers. He picked the Fighting Irish over such schools as the universities of California, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan and Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Ohio State and LSU.

Rubio developed a close relationship with Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, who recruited him.

“We’re best buds,” Rubio said. “We text and call each other almost every week. Modern technology is wonderful. I just feel Notre Dame is the best school for me.

“First, I wanted to go to a school that has an extremely big academic side of it. I think it’s one of the best academic schools in the country. They have a family bond there. They treat you like family. It’s like we’re all brothers. The coaching staff is one of the best in the world. And then there is the tradition and history of Notre Dame.”

Any school would want Rubio, who has excellent strength and power. He has the surprising agility and quickness in tight spaces to close and finish for a big man. He has solid eye discipline and ball-location skills post-snap versus the run.

Rubio is considered to be a good athlete for his size. He has good strength and he shocks blockers with initial contact.

“Gabriel is old school. He had good genes,” Harris said. “His dad was a pro and his mom is an athlete. He’s a ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ kind of kid. He’s a pleasure to be around. You only have to tell him something once. He has a blue-collar work ethic. He’s always trying to be better.”

That’s what Rubio wants the most — to be better.

“We always have a goal to get 100% better than last year,” Rubio said. “I feel like I’m getting better in my strength, technique, speed, agility and quickness. There are so many things to learn and I want to learn everything I can. I want to keep working to become a better player.”

Harris believes Rubio will do that and go on to succeed at the Division 1 level at Notre Dame.

“I don’t think he’ll have a problem moving to Division 1. He has good habits,” Harris said. “He can do the little things. I’m glad he’s made his decision and won’t have to worry about it. He can go out and play.”

Rubio is “optimistic” there will be a season this fall despite the Covid-19 pandemic. One reason he wants to play is personal.

His younger brother, Isaiah, will be entering high school this fall and the two will have a chance to play side by side.

“It’s been one of my dreams to play on the same team as my brother,” said Rubio. “We’ve never been able to do it because of the age difference. This will probably be the one and only time we’ll be able to do it. I can show him the ropes and get him to love it as much as I do.

“He has way better technique than I did at his age. What he lacks in size right now, he makes up for in speed. He can close distances pretty well. The way he’s going to progress is going to be astounding. He’s already better than me when I was that age. It’s going to be fun for us.”

Harris is excited to suit up the brothers.

“Oh yeah, they’ll be out there playing together,” Harris said. “Isaiah will follow in his brother’s footsteps. There’ll be opportunities for him this season. He’s already 6-1 and 225. He’ll be a big one, too, because he’s not done growing.”

Rubio said he believes the Cougars can be as good as they want to be. He likes this team.

“We’re going for the state championship,” Rubio said. “I fully believe we can go undefeated this year. Having the team we have right now, it’s a goal for every high school team. We have the talent and we have the bond. We can’t wait to get out there and play.”

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