Bryan Hudson is one of the best football players in Kentucky, but that might not be his best sport.
Hudson, a junior at Scott County High School, is favored to win this weekend's discus and shot put titles as part of the KHSAA Class 3A state championships, and it probably won't be close. He was nearly 6 feet better than the runner-up in last year's shot put event and was almost 20 feet farther in the discus.
His best marks in both this season are within state-record territory. He threw a 62-04.5 in the shot put at the Pepsi Florida Relays in March; the state-meet record is 63-09.25 set by Lexington Catholic's Andrew Vollet in 2013 . Last weekend at the 6th Region championships he matched his personal record with a 190-3 in the discus (Male's Kyle Jenkins owns that state-meet mark, a 193-01). Those marks rank Hudson at No. 20 overall nationally in each event.
Hudson has committed to play football for Virginia Tech, a perennial contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but he'll continue his track-and-field career in Blacksburg, too. That's a special distinction for any athlete, but especially one coming out of Kentucky, which until recently wasn't particularly renowned for its track-and-field talent.
"Here’s a kid who’s on top in both throwing events and is a hell of a football player, and he’s going to school to do both," said Chris Hawboldt, the webmaster of Kentucky MileSplit, the state's leader in track-and-field news. "I think it’s a major statement for our sport in the state of Kentucky."
Hudson, a 6-foot-4, 292-pound offensive tackle, had an offer list that would be the envy of any football recruit: Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State and Notre Dame all wanted the four-star prospect. Being able to keep his track-and-field career alive was important to Hudson, though, and the Hokies afforded that opportunity.
“The only conversation impacting his recruitment that I had with him and his parents is I just said, ‘You make sure that you’ve got the line coach, the head coach and the throwers coach all in the room together and have them step you through’ (how it’ll work),” Scott County football coach Jim McKee told the Herald-Leader when Hudson committed in April. “Because if he doesn’t do both at some point in time, that’s fine, but that needs to be his decision."
Hudson said football will always come first — "If my grades are dropping or anything I’ll definitely just do football," he said after the 6th Region championships — but he has big dreams in his offseason sport. He wants to be the first athlete to break a 200-feet distance in the state discus competition, something he believes he could do this weekend if the conditions are right. He wants to keep bettering himself to the point where Olympic competition becomes a reality.
"That’s something that I’ve dreamed of ever since I started throwing," Hudson said. "I feel that I have a chance to do it and that’s a goal for me."
Hudson in June will compete in the New Balance Nationals Outdoor event in North Carolina. It's one of the few places where spectators might be oblivious to the gridiron star in their midst.
"When I’m at a track meet most people have no idea I play football and football players don’t know I do track," Hudson said with a laugh. "Offensive linemen and throwers don’t get much attention anyways."
The good thing for Scott County is that Hudson isn't the type of kid who craves a level of attention equal to his talent. He's as humble as he is strong.
But when he graduates in a year, he'll do so as a legend from a school that's produced many.
"When you talk about highly decorated athletes (from Scott County), there’s really no conversation," McKee said. "It begins and ends with Bryan Hudson.”