CLINTON — With preseason college football practices weeks away, Jacob Judd is more than happy to get one last tuneup before starting his freshman year at Western Illinois University.
“Getting the pads on now is a huge help,” said Judd, a two-way All-Mississippi Athletic Conference lineman for Clinton High last season.
It’s an added bonus when doing so helps a cause.
For the past week, Judd has had a preview of college life while staying at the University of Northern Iowa dorms. On Saturday, he will take the field for Iowa’s South Squad during the 41st annual Shrine Bowl — the state’s equivalent of an all-start game for seniors.
While centered around the gridiron, the Shrine Bowl also serves as a major charitable event for the local Shriners Hospital for Children. Coordinators report that money raised from the game now totals more than $2.25 million, all of which goes toward supporting kids with various illnesses.
Judd said he’d had a taste of the game’s influence off the field. In between practices with other standouts from around Iowa, players have visited the children the Shrine Bowl supports with a number of bonding experiences.
“We spend time with these kids, like we’re older buddies,” Judd said. “It’s a different experience. It feels rewarding being able to see and spend time with these kids who look up to you.”
With a proud family backing him, the Judds have also entrenched themselves in the Shriners’ cause. Jacob’s mom, Danielle, while vocalizing pride in her son’s football achievements, is also taking part in fundraising. She’s made herself available to local fans who want to purchase tickets and support the cause.
Fans who attend will get the added treat of seeing one of their local players one last time.
As for the game itself, Judd said he’s had a worthwhile experience getting to know players from all corners of Iowa. Among his teammates for the South is former Mississippi Athletic Conference rival Cole Picchiotti, Pleasant Valley’s middle linebacker last season. Picchiotti and Judd will be teammates when they don WIU uniforms.
“He’s pretty cool,” Judd said, adding he was excited for the opportunity to get to know Picchiotti a little better before training camp. In general he’s made friends with others who will play NCAA Division I football. “There’s a bunch of people going to college out here. It’s just been a great experience getting to know them.”
Judd has spent practices participating strictly on the offensive side. He will play tackle during the game. He said he’s been told he will likely play guard for the Leathernecks.
The game, he said, is a good segue for what’s ahead.
“(Clinton coach Lee) Camp has been a huge help,” Judd said. “So far this has been a great experience. I’m enjoying it a lot, and it feels just like high school.
“I’m most excited for the football game. All of my friends are going to be there.”
He’d like to encourage other locals to take part. Gametime is at 4 p.m. Saturday in Cedar Falls’ UNI-Dome. Preceding the game will be a parade through Cedar Falls at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $10 a person in advance and $15 at the gate.
They can be purchased through Shrine Bowl coordinators at (515) 276-3319 or by contacting Danielle Judd at (563) 249-6318.