Coach Lee Camp saw the improvement in Jacob Judd. So did the college recruiters.
As a result, Judd is seeing the effects of his improvement.
Wednesday morning in the Clinton High School auditorium, the River Kings senior signed a national letter-of-intent to play football at Western Illinois University.
“He had a nice junior year, but he didn’t really dominate opponents,” Camp said. “He worked on his strength and feet (over the summer), and once the season started he was noticeably different. He just got better every game, and I think college coaches realized he hasn’t peaked yet.”
Judd, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound two-way lineman for the River Kings, certainly noticed the difference.
“Finishing blocks,” he said, noting where he made the greatest strides. “I got a lot better at going through the whistle, taking people to the ground.”
Some of the credit for that goes to CHS assistant coach Nate Herrig, a former River King who played guard at the same college level, at the Uni-versity of Northern Iowa.
“He’s helped my feet out numerously,” Judd said. “Coach Herrig is a great coach. He’s helped me with my hard-nosed run-blocking. He taught me to really finish my blocks. I’m sure he looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to help this guy get even better. He can play at that level.’
“He’s been there. He knows what I need to go through. He knew that I needed to hit the weights big time and get a lot bigger if I wanted to play Division I-AA.”
Camp also wanted the younger players in the program to see what a River King player such as a Judd, Herrig or current and former Northern Iowa players David Johnson and Ben Boothby could accomplishment, so he scheduled to signing in the auditorium.
“Especially with the younger kids, you want them to see how he got there. You have to work on it.”
Judd can attest to that. He credits much of his improvement to offseason workouts.
“We had a summer lifting program at 6:45 every morning,” he said. “I didn’t miss one lifting session. That was pretty big for me because I had pretty good ball skills last year, but hitting the weights and a lot of speed training really helped me to where I am now.”
At Western, he will move from the tackle spot on the offensive line to guard, but he doesn’t believe that will be a difficult move.
“I played center up until my sophomore year,” he said. “I think guard is probably a better place for me because of my size. Guards are your hard-nosed run blockers.”
He said the Leathernecks planned to redshirt him during the upcoming season, which should help with his development.
“They are going to redshirt me my first year and put a lot of weight on me,” he said. “They want to get me over 300, get my max outs a little higher. I definitely have a lot more to do in the weight room, and I have a whole year to do that now. ”
Judd said another thing that made Western Illinois appealing was its location. Just a couple of hours south of Clinton, Macomb is an easy drive for friends and family who want to watch him play.
“I want my family to come out there and watch my games,” said Judd, whose great uncle, Howard, was a legendary swimming coach at Clinton High. “I still want to be connected to everybody.”
His grandparents, Tom and Linda Judd, watched the signing ceremony Wednesday, along with his father, Jay Kramer, and mother, Danielle Judd.
Like many youngsters, Judd grew up dreaming about playing Division I college football. And, in time he drew interest from schools of that level.
“When Drake University first got ahold of me, I kind of thought it would be really cool to do it,” Judd said about playing at the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) level. “Western Illinois came way later and gave me a lot of money, and it’s a perfect fit for me.”
While attending Western, Judd — who also considered attending Drake, Division II schools Quincy or Upper Iowa or a couple of junior colleges — plans to major in physics.