April 6, 2011
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a way, you can say that Ron Hudson owes his D-I coaching career to a couch. Of course, there is more. Really, his wife might be the hero on the slippery slope that led Hudson from Highland High to Muskingum College to lots of other places and finally to New Mexico.
But first, the couch.
The furniture in question was located in the coaches lounge at the University of Louisville and for about a year that couch was crunched under the weight of a young, pain-in-the-rear high school coach trying to work his way onto the Louisville staff as a graduate assistant.
"I think for a whole year, every chance I could get, I would be sitting on that couch waiting for somebody to come in so I could talk football with them," said Hudson, the first-year offensive line/run game coordinator for Mike Locksley's Lobos. "I had to convince them I wanted to be there. One thing you could say, I was persistent.
"I would be on that couch every chance I could find until they got absolutely tired of me and offered me a job."
However, before Hudson could accept that job, it had to be cleared with his wife, Melissa, because there was one major problem with the GA gig besides the low pay. Hudson had to live in the dorm with the football players - minus the wife.
"My wife was OK with it," said Hudson.
Melissa was OK with it because when she met Hudson during his playing days at Muskingum College in Ohio, there was never any doubt about Hudson's passion in life - to coach football at the D-I level. It was a passion and a calling honed by a single season of playing football at Highland High which then was under the watchful eye of the legendary Bill Gentry.
It was a special time in the history of New Mexico football and the impact of that single season hit a wide-eyed freshman the way a 300-pound lineman might hit an unsuspecting cornerback.
"That year was one of the biggest impacts on my love for the game," said Hudson. "It was the first time I had played football and Highland High back then was a power under Coach Gentry. We were good and football was huge at Highland High.
"It was a big deal to be a Highland High football player at a school where football was such a huge thing. That struck me and that hung with me. It was bigger than life for me. That's where I cut my teeth."
Hudson's experience at Highland lasted only a season because, as a military brat, he moved away. But a season of wearing Hornet gear validated an itch that Hudson had been scratching - and sketching - for a long time.
"I think even before I knew that I knew, I was destined to coach football," he said. "It was about the seventh grade when had notebooks all over the place full of plays that I had drawn up.
"I'm sure most of it was incoherent, but when I drifted off as a kid, that's where I went. I was fascinated with football and not just the game, but the moving of pieces and parts and having things fit together and work together."
The trail from Highland High to New Mexico was not a path without its bumps, hurdles and pitfalls. One season Hudson made about $2,000 for 10 months of coaching while he and his pregnant wife lived with his folks and Melissa taught school. "It was an interesting period," said Hudson.
After a three-year stint at UTEP, after that staff was not retained, Hudson thought maybe the best thing for him and his family was to lay down some roots. "I was thinking about getting a high school job in El Paso," he said. "I was thinking about providing stability for my family."
Again, Melissa rode to the rescue. "She said, `That's not you. You won't be happy.' And she was right."
Luck is often a welcome factor in athletics and luck hit Hudson while on the recruiting road for Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he landed after UTEP. He heard Coach Ron Bustle was looking for a line guy at Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudson drove from Houston to Lafayette, but got there too late. The job had been filled.
"I was about 15 minutes into the drive back to Kingsville when Coach Bustle calls me and says the job is open again. The other guy turned it down," said Hudson. "I took it."
At Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudson defined himself as something special. They won the league after a 1-4 start. The Ragin' Cajuns' running game was ranked No. 7 in the nation in 2005 and again in 2007. The Cajuns set a school mark with 2,797 rushing yards in 2005 and broke that mark with 3,019 in 2007.
Still, there was a problem. The Cajuns were bowl eligible in four of the six seasons that Hudson was there, but no bowl offers came. The mob and the administration grew restless. Bustle was let go and Hudson again was faced with the instability of coaching. "There are a lot of ups and downs in this profession, but I love it," said Hudson.
The bad luck at Lafayette looks like good luck for the Lobos. Hudson gushes with passion, energy and fundamental demands on the Lobo practice field. That's a good thing. The UNM O-line is young, inexperienced and not deep, but you can already see Hudson's influence as holes are opening on the spring practice fields.
Hudson said one of the first things he did when he returned to Albuquerque was make a visit to Highland High where long ago a wide-eyed freshman drew out plays and dreamed about a future.
"I think I ran into a few ghosts. It was exciting," said Hudson. "Now, I'm at a level where you get the good toys. At this level, all those sketches I did back then, well, these guys can make them work."