Will Hudson has loved playing baseball for nearly as long as he can remember.
In recent years, it became his desire to play college baseball. Even more recently, it became his passion to play college ball with his older brother, Drew, at the University of North Alabama.
Then along came his just-completed senior season in football. It was a banner year for the receiver. He caught 55 passes for 751 yards and seven touchdowns in the high-octane offense of coaches Lee Ozmint and Michael Darden.
It was enough to make the Arab athlete think about a future in a sport other than baseball, especially considering his final experience on the gridiron: five catches for 136 yards and two TDs against North Jackson in the finale.
“It was a fun year in football and a fun experience,” he said, smiling broadly, on Wednesday. “Football’s always been in my head a little.”
But those were fleeting thoughts. As much as football caught his attention his senior season, baseball remains his true love.
“Baseball has been my main focus most of my life,” he said.
That’s why on Wednesday he made official what he decided over the summer. He accepted UNA’s offer of a baseball scholarship to join the Lions as a pitcher.
“It’s obviously a great day for our family and the baseball program at Arab,” said his dad and coach, Chad Hudson. “To have one of our players sign with a Division I program is a great honor.
“For our family, the chance for Will to join his brother at UNA is a dream come true.”
UNA is excited about Will’s potential on the mound, according to his dad.
“He doesn’t have a ton of innings built up on his arm and he should really flourish when focusing on pitching and baseball full time,” he said. “His fastball currently sits in the 86-87 range and has topped out at 89 mph.
“They believe he potentially has more velocity to go with a good breaking ball and change up.”
While he’ll be strictly a pitcher for the Lions, he’ll play infield, pitch and hit leadoff for the Knights this coming season/
“Will has worked really hard to become a better pitcher,” Chad Hudson said. “He has always been an excellent defensive player with a lot of position versatility and he improved every year as a hitter – becoming our best hitter last season.
“But we needed him to step up on the mound and he really did. His control was better than it had ever been and he was durable. The best part about Will’s junior season was that he played his best in our biggest games.
“We have a really good team coming back this season so we are looking forward to the 2020 season. I am glad Will could sign early so he can just focus on his last season as a high school player.”
Will’s junior season stats reveal a 7-1 record and one save on the mound, with 54 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched. He allowed 19 hit.
On offense, he batted .464, with five home runs, eight doubles, two triples, 35 RBIs, 42 runs scored and eight stolen bases.
Those numbers were good enough to be named first-team All-State for Class 5A. He’s been a four-year starter and a varsity player since the eighth grade.
Chad Hudson said having Drew at UNA made Will’s recruiting process a lot easier.
“Will was very familiar with everything at UNA and after they offered he knew that was somewhere he would love to play,” Hudson said. “The move to Division I has been really exciting, with the chance to play people like Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.
“It’s an exciting time.”
Drew had a good fall at UNA after an impressive freshman season. He played all over the infield – second base, shortstop and third base – and hit leadoff all fall. He made 30 starts last year as a freshman and led the Lions with a .419 on-base percentage.