TOLEDO, Ohio — Before his sophomore year of high school in 2014, James Hudson III made a conscious decision. He was going to concentrate on football. He loved the sport and knew he had a legitimate future as a college football player, even as a 15-year-old at Toledo’s Central Catholic High School.
Late in his junior year in 2016, Hudson made another conscious decision. He chose to reopen his college football recruitment, less than a year after he verbally committed to Kentucky. In August, Hudson announced his verbal commitment to join Michigan’s football program.
Even at 16 years old, Hudson exercised a unique level of maturity, and his long-term planning skills helped fulfill his goal of playing college football.
Meet Michigan recruit James Hudson
Yet in the process of his recruitment, Hudson learned a valuable lesson:
“When you choose a college, it’s a life decision,” Hudson said. “I just had to figure that out because looking back, I don’t know if that was the decision I wanted to make that early.”
Hudson also gained a wise perspective in the process of recruitment, and he offers recruits the same knowledge he gained.
“Make the best decision for you,” Hudson said. “Go with your gut feeling. And I’m happy with my decision.”
Hudson, a 4-star defensive tackle from northwest Ohio, is part of Michigan’s 30-player incoming class of 2017. Michigan’s freshman class is ranked fifth in the country by 247Sports, and Hudson is one of eight defensive linemen in the class. He is joined by Aubrey Solomon, Deron Irving-Bey, Donovan Jeter, Corey Malone-Hatcher, Phillip Paea, Kwity Paye and Luiji Vilain.
But his decision to join the Michigan football program wasn’t an easy decision. At the time Hudson committed to Kentucky, he only had four college scholarship offers and had only visited Ohio State, Notre Dame and Toledo.
At the start of his junior year at Central Catholic, more colleges began to reach out to Hudson. More options became available, and Hudson realized that these college programs weren’t just making an investment in him. He was also making an investment in his future on an academic level, on an athletic level, and, to a certain extent, a financial level — unofficial visits, he explained, come at the expense of recruits and family.
“The coaches at Kentucky were great, but my mom didn’t want me to go as far away,” Hudson said. “I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy the recruiting process. I didn’t really get to experience a full visit.”
Reopening his recruitment, Hudson said, was a key decision.
“I wanted to see what school was actually the best fit for me, and I didn’t know if Kentucky was actually the best fit for me,” he said. “I sat down with my mom and we talked about it. I had to figure everything out.”
Because of that — and because choosing a college and its football program isn’t an arbitrary decision — Hudson reopened his recruitment and took another year to decide where he would go to college.
He was patient. He took visits to specific schools. He asked questions. He evaluated schools and programs with a refined eye, with a better knowledge of what he wanted, as opposed to just what schools were offering him academically and athletically.
Hudson chose Michigan. He forged a strong relationship with defensive line coach Greg Mattison and secondary coach Mike Zordich, and even though he also loved Michigan State, he was secure in the fact that Michigan was less than an hour’s drive from his home in Toledo. He also knew he could be part of a program that places a priority not only on the development of its defensive linemen, but the depth and the individual contributions of its individual linemen.
“If I have the right mindset and can make the right development at Michigan, I can make an impact there,” Hudson said.