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‘And Hudson Didn’t Want to Play Football’

With Tampa Bay’s 31-9 Super Bowl victory over Kansas City in Super Bowl 55, Camden may now boast that it has a shinier ring than Saturn.

Camden’s own Tanner Hudson and Tom Brady will both be able to say that they wear Super Bowl rings. Of course, Brady has six more than the Camden product has, but that’s still pretty cool to think about.

What a great story. As a junior high player at practice, he watched the high-school workouts and decided he wanted no part of that. That was too rough. But after a bit of cajoling from then-Lion coach Kevin Ward, Hudson came out in high school as a kicker and punter, then eventually a quarterback, where he almost led the Lions to victory over Milan.

Think about that for a second. Hudson almost didn’t play high school football. If he hadn’t, he probably would have been at home Sunday night, watching the Bucs and Chiefs on TV like the 99.7 percent of the American population (yes, I did the math), dreading going to work Monday morning.

Isn’t it crazy what path a twist of fate might lead you down? He walked on at Memphis, but didn’t like it and found a home at Southern Arkansas, which is certainly no cave mine of NFL talent, last I checked. Yet, somehow, he garnered the attention of someone in the Tampa Bay front office and they took a chance on the former Lion.

Hudson was cut once, waived once, but he still hung around until he made the roster. I’ve been doing this for a long time ang have had the good fortune of covering a lot of guys (and girls) through the years who have reached to the top echelon. I can say this: If they didn’t think you could play at that level, they wouldn’t monkey with you.

There may be a few haters out there, pointing out that he didn’t make a catch in the game, blah, blah, blah. Some may argue he had little to do with the Super Bowl title. Ignore those folks. He paid the price on the practice field every single day to make himself better and in so doing, he helped make his team better.

He suited up with the best in the world in this particular sport and with someone who you may argue is the best of all time in Brady. The Buc quarterback is a freak of nature. My childhood pal Doug Flutie, who was Brady’s teammate a decade ago, tells me that Brady is exceedingly intelligent. We haven’t talked about Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Tampa Bay. It’s hard not to like having a mentor like that in your position room meetings.

Hudson has a season-plus under his belt in the NFL. How many of us would trade anything for playing just a down in the NFL? Or having an at-bat in the Major Leagues? Or shooting a free throw in the NBA?

What I thought was cool was how the town of Camden crystallized its support for Hudson. I remember when Martin’s Chad Clifton and Hollow Rock-Bruceton’s Patrick Willis each took the field in their respective Super Bowls. Sure people were excited, but as I texted Hudson after the game, Camden is incandescent over this young man.

It’s not like Camden hasn’t had great players come through here. Thomas Rowsey comes to mind. Josh Boyd another. You could make a case for Brittany Minor or Jordan Vick (softball and volleyball respectively). But this has moved people in Benton County.

Any number of things may have happened along the way. He could have bailed out on football and probably would have had scholarship opportunities in baseball or basketball. I dare say, given everything I’ve heard about him, he’d have been successful.

But if he never steps on another NFL field, he can say something that people like hall-of famers Dan Marino, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders can’t say – Hudson can say he has a Super Bowl ring.

Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden.

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