TAMPA – In most of the footage on Austin Hudson’s brief highlight film, there are coaches and backups standing behind the offensive formation.
There are rarely any fans in the bleachers. Most of the “opponents” are actually teammates, wearing similar uniforms. And the majority of Hudson’s big plays are met with little fanfare or excitement.
That’s because most of them came during Plant’s practices and scrimmages, rather than actual games.
No matter: Wisconsin saw enough of Hudson in those snippets of film, spring practices and during a recent visit to the campus to offer him a scholarship. Hudson rewarded their faith in his modest resume by committing to the Badgers.
“I was always patient with the recruiting process,” Hudson said. “Those guys took a chance on me.”
Hudson and Ray Raulerson (Tennessee) confirmed their oral commitments Thursday during a short ceremony in the school’s field house. The Panthers now have three rising seniors who have announced their college choices prior to the season, including linebacker Andrew Beck (Texas).
There will likely be others in the coming months, including quarterback Colby Brown, cornerback Mazzi Wilkins and offensive lineman Richard Bush.
Perhaps the most unlikely college prospect of the bunch is Hudson, who started only one game as a junior and missed much of the season with a sports hernia, a medical condition characterized mostly by chronic groin pain.
In that one start, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Hudson had seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown in a 52-20 victory over Jefferson. It was in that game where Hudson suffered the injury that would effectively end his season.
“I didn’t even feel it at the time,” Hudson said. “Then I got my legs taken out from under me.”
But Hudson still remained an intriguing recruit, something confirmed over and over again when college coaches visited Plant in the offseason. Hudson’s performance in spring practices and during a one-day camp at Wisconsin last month – where he reportedly ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 40-inch vertical jump – was enough to get Wisconsin to make him an offer.
“He didn’t have a lot of junior film,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said. “But one word that came up often when guys would come watch him play in the spring, they would come over to me and say, ‘Coach, he’s a freak.’”
His more highly-regarded teammate, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Raulerson, took a more traditional route to a major college scholarship offer by comparison.
Raulerson’s family moved to Tampa before his freshman year, hoping to get their then-6-foot-4, 220-pound son into Plant. His father Sam Raulerson, a former linebacker at the University of Florida, had been impressed by what he saw of the Panthers during previous games.
So when Weiner and the Panthers’ coaching staff asked Ray to move from quarterback to offensive line, there was little fuss from the Raulersons.
“I told them that one day they would thank me,” Weiner said.
That day was Thursday.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jdhometeam.