Two local high school stars, offensive tackle Hall Schmidt of Peninsula and outside linebacker Hudson Cedarland of Gig Harbor, recently signed national letters of intent to play NCAA Division I college football. Schmidt, who combines 6-foot-7 inches and 300 pounds of raw power with perfected technique, will play at Boise State University. Cedarland, 6-foot-3 inches and 215 pounds of athleticism, flexibility and speed, is bound for Washington State University.
Two of the best football players this town has seen in recent years possess the athletic ability, intelligence and determination to land a scholarship that fewer than 1% of national high school players can acquire.
Hudson Cedarland celebrates making a tackle with his summer team Ford Sports Performance. Photo courtesy of Reaction Photography
One thing is for sure, they worked for those scholarships. Both donned the pads in grade school, and have done the countless agility drills, repetitions and weight training it takes to succeed. Pushing stacks of 45-pound plates around in a hot, sweaty weight room while classmates are enjoying their summertime fun is not easy. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning to lift in a cold, damp weight room in the winter is not fun. As EF Hutton used to say, “They earn it.” These two certainly have.
Two years ago, neither were on Division I recruiters’ radar. In fact, they weren’t rated at all. Most considered them longshots to reach college football’s highest level. But both have that crucial element you won’t find on a stat sheet — desire.
A few years ago, Cedarland was thinner in his upper body, and slower. He admitted he wasn’t the best player on his team. Hall was huge, but his foot speed and coordination were off. He hadn’t grown into his body.
While people paid attention to other deserving athletes, these two flew under the radar. But they never stopped grinding. Both wanted so much to be like their childhood idols. For Hudson, it was Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman. For Hall, it was J.J. Watt and Joe Thomas. Being overlooked turned on a switch in them. Not only did they do all they could with their high school programs, but they went to private skill sessions at the Ford Sports Performance center in Bellevue.
“In addition to my high school coaches, the skills that I learned at FSP prepared me for my future,” Cedarland said.
Hudson Cedarland poses in a Washington State Cougar uniform. Photo courtesy of Washington State University
It is beneficial to talk to and learn from pros like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, who attend the center regularly during the summer. Eventually, the hard work began to pay dividends, and people began to take notice of their improvements and enticing athleticism.
But life is not all about athletics. Off the field, both are kind, well-liked, thoughtful kids with easy smiles and respectful tones. Neither have let success go to their heads. Both are grounded by a strong faith, with supportive families that have been there every step of the way.
Cedarland is the do-everything, sideline-to-sideline, smash-you-in-the-mouth outside linebacker. The Cougars landed him as he received other offers from Oregon State and an enticing late run by linebacker factory Minnesota. Certain players jump out at you. Cedarland is one of them. At Gig Harbor, he was named all-area first team and 2021 South Sound Conference MVP. The competitive, muscular linebacker had 106 tackles, two sacks and nine tackles for loss in 10 games while being double-teamed. He’s tough to block because he combines the length and flexibility to shed blockers and then the quickness to catch running backs.
Hudson Cedarland played both linebacker and wide receiver for the Tides. Photo courtesy of Christi Adams
He also played wide receiver for a good passing team, amassing 43 catches for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns, rarely coming off the field and still averaging 10 tackles a night. Most defensive players get to sit on the sidelines and rest while the offense is on the field. Not Cedarland. He was running deep routes, making one-handed circus catches for touchdowns, running the ball for three more touchdowns and still playing aggressive, lights-out defense.
Cedarland fell in love with the Seattle Seahawks and their Super Bowl teams. After watching them on TV, he told his dad Ben that he wanted to play, and he was signed up for flag football. His dad taught him the value of seeing things through to the end and not being satisfied until the job was done properly. His mother Heather was “a Day 1 supporter who doesn’t talk a lot of football, but she is always in the stands cheering and has been such a positive influence on my life.” Cedarland is the oldest of four children and describes his relationship with brother Britton, sister Olivia and youngest brother Jack, a seventh-grader who loves to talk football and is an up-and-coming quarterback, as very close.
Next week, Cedarland will be enrolling early at WSU and will surely miss his parent’s room where, he said, “I could always go in there and just have a conversation. I will miss them and my siblings so much. I know it will be hard, but I’m committed to being a great football player and I’ve got to do what it takes to make it happen.”
Cedarland also excels in the classroom. He had a 4.0 grade-point average before entering the Running Start program and now carries a 3.7. He will be taking 33 transferable credits to WSU and plans to major in Business with a minor in Sports Management. One day he might like to own a business that will allow him to coach young athletes and help them reach their goals.
As for his personal goals at WSU, “I want to make a name for myself, when people think of Hudson Cedarland I want them to think of a great linebacker,” he said. There will be challenges, but, “I’m a competitor,” he said. “I don’t like to lose, and I like to think of myself as an underdog.”
Peninsula’s Hall Schmidt (74) was named the Sound Sound 3A Conference’s top lineman. Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson
Schmidt spent his Friday nights in the trenches of the offensive and defensive lines. He used his massive frame, power and technique to dominate lineman on the way to being named the South Sound Conference lineman of the year and an all-area first-teamer. Boise State believed in and recruited him early. The Broncos held off WSU, Arizona and USC for his talents. On the choice of Boise State, Hall said, “From the first day I stepped on campus it felt like a family, and that’s what I wanted.”
Schmidt was a machine at offensive tackle, where you’re supposed to road grade lanes for running backs and protect quarterbacks from getting hit. He allowed no sacks the whole year. He had 80 pancake blocks, taking an opposing player to the ground for the co-league champion Seahawks who finished the year at 7-2. That’s almost nine pancakes a game, a dominant statistic.
Hall Schmidt got to see what it feels like to wear Boise State blue and orange. Photo courtesy of Boise State University
Playing offensive tackle is not just about power, though. They must have quick, agile feet for positioning and strong, long arms to punch block or maintain leverage. They also must be able to lead block, sprinting ahead of running backs to plow defenders in their way. Hall’s ability to do both, pass protect and run block, had colleges competing for his services.
Schmidt’s father Paul has been the Peninsula team doctor for 21 seasons. Two older sons, JT and Graham, have already played at the college level.
“We definitely had some times where we went at it in the yard,” Hall said. “They gave me a lot of my toughness, but they always eased up after a while of battling because they were on a different level than I was at the time.”
Hall also has two supportive sisters, Cynthia who is a Peninsula cheerleader and his youngest sister Leah.
Hall Schmidt looks like a man among boys while blocking against Capital High. Photo courtesy of Tina McKail
“With my dad, my brothers, my whole family being involved, I feel like I was born into the Peninsula program,” Schmidt said.
The love of football began early for Schmidt, who was influenced by youth coach Justin Jones. “He was my coach from the fourth grade to the eighth grade and he always pushed me to get better,” Hall said. High school coach Ross Filkins “has a lot of energy and in tough situations we knew we always had a leader who we could turn to.” Schmidt also turns to is his mother Elise. She is a constant supporter with a hug, sandwiches or an ice pack. “My parents have always been by my side,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s goals for Boise State are simple enough. “I want to play football now. I just want to get on the field,” he said. He doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but aspires to be Boise State’s best lineman and, like Cedarland, dreams of playing in the NFL one day. Both know that a free D-1 college education is already a prize, but that’s not enough. They are not satisfied with just getting there. They want to excel and just like a few years ago when they were climbing while others rested, don’t be surprised if they bypass others on the way to reaching their goals.
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