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Walled Lake Western lineman reaches for the stars

By Dave Pemberton, 09/06/16, 9:15AM EDT


Rob Hudson #78

Walled Lake - Walled Lake Western’s Rob Hudson tore through offensive lines on his way to more than 100 tackles last season and this offseason committed to Purdue to play offensive tackle.

Some say Hudson has the potential to play in the NFL, but just a few years ago it was hard for anyone to imagine Hudson would be having this kind of success at any level.

Hudson showed up at Western as a freshman tipping the scales at nearly 450 pounds and severely out of shape.

“When he came on as a freshman, he would get in a three-point stance and he about broke his fingers doing that,” Western coach Mike Zdebski said. “And then he’d do maybe some 5-yard take-offs for about five minutes, and then he couldn’t come to practice the next day because he was too tired and sore.”

Hudson knew it was going to be a long road to getting in shape, but he was determined to see it through. A personal tragedy had given him the motivation to get healthy and nothing was going to stop him.

“My dad passed away my freshman year,” Hudson said. “He was a really heavy guy. He had heart disease. He really struggled with obesity so I just didn’t want to be in the same position he was in. I saw he was in a bad position and I just worked to get out of it.”

With is mom out of the picture, Hudson was really close with his father growing up. Losing him was a huge blow but also set him on a new path to becoming healthy and playing football was that catalyst.

“Football led to weights and running,” Hudson said. “It led to me eating right and everything. Overall, football is the thing that led to me losing all that weight.”

Football also introduced him to Draeton Steiner who, along with his wife Melissa, became his legal guardians last year.

Steiner was the defensive line coach when Hudson started at Western and the two quickly became close. Hudson was living with a family member, but it wasn’t working out so Steiner stepped up and took Hudson in.

“Me and him were really close,” Hudson said. “He’s the one that really coached me freshman year. As a freshman I was up on varsity so me and him got really close. He took me in.

“He’s been the biggest thing that led to me losing all that weight. His wife helped me a lot over the last year with academics. She’s really smart so she helps me with all that. She’s always on me that academics is important.”

With the help of those around him, Hudson slimmed down to 310 pounds entering his junior year.

“He’s had a lot of people help him,” Zdebski said. “Through coaches, family, administrators, teachers, friends of the program, there’s been a lot of people to give him encouragement.

“The thing is, he had to want to take the encouragement. He had to want to develop and he had to want to change himself.

“He made the decision that he wanted to do something with his life. We’ve had other kids come through this building who are big dudes like him, but being somewhere every day, being at practice every day, someone telling you what to do every day, someone telling you how to do it every day, someone critiquing you every day, a lot of people don’t like to be critiqued, a lot of people don’t like to be told what you need to fix to be better, but he did. He listened and he made all the right choices.”

Hudson said once his junior season started, all his hard work began to pay off. He started for the first time since seventh grade and was determined to make the most of it.

“I worked hard and it was just time to put it to the test,” Hudson said. “As soon as I started tearing through the line I knew all my hard work had paid off. That was probably the turning point.

“As soon as I got in the game I was like, ‘I’m ready for this.’ I put in all that hard work and it’s going to pay off this year. Last year I got 100 tackles so I did pretty well on defense.”

Standing at 6-foot-8 and more than 300 pounds, most colleges began to recruit Hudson as an offensive lineman despite the fact he didn’t play offense last season.

Purdue recruited Hudson as an offensive lineman and he’s worked hard to make the adjustment.

“There’s definitely been a learning curve,” he said. “Offense there is a lot more into knowing every single play, where defense it’s pretty much get lined in your assignment and stay in your gap. It’s definitely a bit different but I adjusted pretty well.”

Now Hudson and the Warriors have their sights set on a state championship. Western reached the Division 2 semifinals last season and are working hard toward taking that next step this season.

Western is 2-0 after defeating Canton, 33-30, last Thursday. The Warriors host Northville (2-0) on Friday.

“All the way; state champs,” Hudson said. “We got close last year; 12-1 is not good enough. We want 14-0. That’s what I’m really looking for.”

Hudson has come a long way since the 440-pound kid who started at Western and has the potential to go even further. But no matter where he goes, Hudson knows his father would be proud.

“I think he’s looking down on me, proud of what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished,” Hudson said. “I went from being 440 pounds and not going anywhere to committing to Purdue so that’s a big deal.”


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