Hudson Hartman. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

For the briefest of moments, it looked like Hudson Hartman might actually be a statistics compiler when it came to the offensive side of the football. After playing as a lineman since age 6 and up through Pop Warner, Hartman was switched to running back on the Hopewell Valley Central High freshman football team.

“I got to run it during a scrimmage and got to score the only touchdown in that scrimmage,” he proudly noted.

Alas, his glory would be short lived. The freshman team developed injuries on the O-line and he was quickly moved back to the land of the anonymous. He also played linebacker that year but eventually found his way back to the defensive line.

While that may have hurt his chance to be in the headlines, it certainly helped the Bulldogs as the years went on.

Hartman had an outstanding year at offensive guard and defensive end and helped HoVal to a 6-3 season.

“He’s very active,” coach Dave Caldwell said. “I think he’s one of the top defensive linemen in the county. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got length, he’s got a motor and he loves playing football. He’s around 6-3, 240 pounds and he’s probably one of the faster kids on the team.”

As a Pop Warner coach, Caldwell watched Hartman from a young age and always saw potential.

And it doesn’t bother Hartman that his running back days are behind him after one touchdown, as he enjoys life in the trenches.

“It’s just about staying humble and playing for your team,” he said.

He wasn’t even able to do the latter as a sophomore after suffering a concussion against Rancocas Valley in the season’s first game. It resulted in him missing the remainder of the season. He could have played the final two games but his family decided it wasn’t worth the risk with two full years still remaining.

“They told me the symptoms, what to do, like lay in a dark room,” Hartman said.
“The days progressed, and it was staying the same. I didn’t take the impact test for a while, when I did the season was pretty much over. It was annoying.”

Actually, it was a bit more than annoying once he thought it over.

“It was devastating,” he said. “When I first got the concussion, I was really angry. I knew I would be missing out on the whole senior class we had and their great leadership. I wasn’t going to experience it and that was tough.”

He returned last year and had a strong comeback season. After putting on 30 pounds, he was relentless this season. Couple that with his football savvy and the Bulldogs have a stellar two-way lineman, even though he does prefer defense “just because I like making a tackle for a loss; that’s cool.”

“I think he has a pretty good understanding of the game,” Caldwell said. “He’s a great student in the classroom. I find many times kids who are great students in the classroom and have athletic ability are great students of the game. He’s a combination of not only his relentless work ethic and athletic ability but also his intelligence as a football player.”

Unlike some players, who are skill position guys growing up but suddenly get moved to the interior when they have a growth spurt, Hartman has gotten down in a stance throughout his life. It made things easier when he arrived at HVCHS.

“I think it definitely helped, just going in the trenches and hitting people every play as hard as you can,” he said. “I didn’t understand what the difference was when I was little, but now I see it during practice. Our practice is so much harder just hitting each other and pushing people around for three hours straight, and I’m used to it.”

And as a student of the game, Hartman explains that there are basic differences in coming off the ball on offense as opposed to defense.

“As an offensive lineman, it’s calculations on who I’m gonna block, what angle I’m gonna take, what step I’m gonna take. You’re thinking a little more,” he said. “And then the defensive line is just coming off like a bat outta hell, coming off as fast as I can, slanting which way I need to slant and being ready to spin.”

Hartman is uncertain of his football future as he will put academics first in deciding a college, and perhaps try and walk on from there. He is currently looking at University of Colorado – Boulder and some University of California schools.

“I think I want to do either business or statistics or something like that,” he said. “I’m taking AP stat right now, and I sometimes go to the city to see my dad. He works in advertising, so I can see what he does at the office.”

His choices are ironic, in a way. He’s a guy who can’t compile offensive statistics in football, but just might make a career out of it in life.