When Jacob Judd graduated from Clinton in 2013, he knew he wanted to play at the highest level of football possible. That led him to his one major offer at Western Illinois University.
Judd redshirted his freshman year and watched the Leathernecks go 3-8. With a new coaching staff coming in, he knew that it would be his — and the rest of the underclassman’s jobs to turn the program around.
“It was the whole plan. We came in with a new coaching staff and they really instilled in us what we wanted to do,” Judd said, reflecting on his career at Western. “I remember freshman year coach was putting out ‘2017 National Champions’, that is what we’re building this around, you guys. From that moment on we’ve been working our butts off to get to this point.”
The Leathernecks have gone 8-3 this season, literally a flipped record. They are in the FCS playoffs for the second time in the last three years, kicking off against Weber State University in Ogden, UT this Saturday. It’s been something that Judd and the rest of the team has been working on for a while.
“Finish this fight. We’ve been saying that since last year when we were taken out of the playoffs,” Judd said. “Were big on finishing this year and is probably our biggest manta. Finish this fight.”
The 6’3 offensive lineman played at Clinton with names like Jake Mangler and current NFL player David Johnson. He calls himself a “home-raised boy” and says Clinton is definitely a special place for him.
“My freshman year was David’s year. It was cool. When I was a freshman I came in and saw those guys and I was so intimidated. Walking around the hallways seeing people like Jake Mangler and people like David Johnson walking around. I looked up to them a lot,” Judd said. “They instilled a work ethic. I saw them go and work hard every day, work hard in the weight room, so I just learned from them.”
He still sees support from small-town Iowa even though he is in Macomb.
“My mom is my number one fan. She’s come to every game this year,” Judd said. “She went all the way down to Coastal Carolina, all the way to Tennessee Tech, Northern Arizona. She’s followed me all over the country and I won’t be surprised to see her in Utah.”
“I get on Facebook every now and again and I see people from Clinton saying congrats and telling me to keep working hard. It’s a great feeling.”
Still, being from Iowa gives him a little extra incentive at times. He says although he is hoping the best memories of his career are still coming with FCS playoffs, some of the highlights have been beating an Iowa school.
“Our last drive against University of Northern Iowa — they’re a good team and known to be a good team but I kind of have a little more drive against UNI because I was an Iowa kid and I didn’t get recruited by them,” Judd said. “We beat them twice in my career on their homecoming. It was really awesome, it was a great feeling.”
The senior has certainly had quite the time at WIU. Besides the improved team play he has earned All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors twice and multiple academic recognitions. Now, he gets to be a part of a Leatherneck squad making a playoff appearance for the 11th time in school history.
He says he loves his hometown, though, and is grateful for the support. He also wants kids in Clinton to remember that there are opportunities outside of small-town Iowa.
“I love Clinton. I’m a home-raised kid and lived there my entire life. You can venture out and have success outside of Clinton, though,” Judd said. “Clinton is a great place to be from. Look at people like David Johnson, though, and all the success he’s had. There are things you can do in Clinton, but there are other places. I was homesick at first, but I’m glad I got to a new area too.”