Just call him “Tuba.” It’s probably easier.
People have stumbled over the pronunciation of Ahtyba Rubin’s first name since he was little, so a high school coach just gave up and settled on “Tuba.”
The Seattle Seahawks media guide suggests “ah-TAY-ba.” Rubin’s mother picked it out of a book of baby names and told him it variously means “prince, warrior, king.”
The Seahawks are more concerned with the warrior persona, as “Tuba” will be instrumental to the Seahawks’ defensive front this season. The 6-foot-2, 325-pound defensive tackle joins veteran Brandon Mebane as the pair of rolling boulders expected to anchor and give ballast to the entire defense.
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A free agent pickup from Cleveland, having played seven seasons for the Browns, Rubin solidified his position well enough that it allowed the Hawks to release veteran Tony McDaniel in a cost-saving move.
Here’s what Rubin saw in Cleveland: upheaval (five head coaches in seven seasons) and defeat (never even coming close to a winning season).
Here’s what he sees in Seattle: heaven.
After a warm practice Tuesday, Rubin pointed to the sparkling surface of adjacent Lake Washington. “It’s so beautiful here by the lake, it’s like heaven here,” he said.
He’s not here for the scenic wonders, however. What he has witnessed on the field thus far, though, has to seem like competitive heaven.
And, benefiting from the perspective of a guy who escaped a chronic losing team to join a championship contender, Rubin pinpoints the most crucial difference.
“These guys are all all-stars and they expect a lot from each other every day,” Rubin said. “Players call other players out in the meeting room if they’re not going hard. (Michael) Bennett … Mebane … they’ll orchestrate the meetings or the warmups or practice routines.
“There’s constant leadership by the players. There’s so many leaders out there, guys who really care so much, I’ve never experienced anything like that in my whole career playing football.”
Rubin played 11 games for the Browns last season despite fighting an ankle injury that reduced his effectiveness. He looks healthy thus far and takes over the 3-technique position that has been rented on short-term basis by Colin Cole, Alan Branch and McDaniel the past five seasons.
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was at the headquarters Tuesday doing his 950-AM radio show. Afterward, when asked about Rubin’s play in Cleveland when Holmgren served as president of the franchise, he cited Rubin as one of the stars of the team, with a great attitude and an energy level rare for such a big man.
Stories are told that Browns staffers over the years have stopped films to show examples of Rubin hustling to make downfield tackles as if he were a player in the secondary.
“He’s an unusual player in pursuit for a big man,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said early in training camp. “He chases the ball like crazy.”
Carroll uses the term “unusual” because guys who weigh 325 generally like to operate in smaller spaces and avoid endeavors that could fall under the classification “aerobic.”
Not Rubin, who said Seattle is a good fit for him because he likes to get out in nature to hike and ride bikes.
Mebane knew of Rubin and respected his game for many years.
“I always noticed how hard he played,” Mebane said. “When I heard he was coming, I was like, OK, he’s a great player. He brings a lot of savvy in his approach to the game and he’s a great guy to be around. I’m looking forward to mixing it up with him.”
Asked what he hoped the fans might see from him, Rubin promised effort.
“I’ve been an under-the-radar kind of guy, but I work hard and hustle to the ball,” he said. “I’m never going to quit; I’m going to go out like all the others and give it all I’ve got.”
Rubin hoped the Browns would re-sign him when his contract expired. Natural, he said, that a player wants to finish where he started.
“But this is the best opportunity I could have asked for,” he said. “This is a Super Bowl atmosphere with a lot of great players. I’m going to do everything I can to help keep it going and not let anybody down.”
Mebane cited an immediate appreciation for Rubin’s attitude. “He’s a very humble guy, I like that.”
Rubin might be named like a prince or king, but he affects no airs. And, clearly, he’s not one too toot his own horn.
Or, in his case, tuba.