Joining Noah Hudgins (second from left) in the front row at Wednesday's ceremony were his parents, Lisa and Barry Hudgins, and his sister, Abigail. The back row, from left, included Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis, brother Jacob Hudgins and Polk assistant head coach Jamie Thompson (photo courtesy Bruce Ollis)

Noah Hudgins may not have been the loudest member of Polk County’s 2019 football team, but his play on the field often grabbed everyone’s attention.

Among those taking notice – the football staff at Gardner-Webb.

“About five minutes” after seeing tape of Hudgins, according to Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis, the Bulldog staff offered the recent Wolverine graduate a chance to join the program as a walk-on for the upcoming season. Polk County celebrated Hudgins’ acceptance of that offer during a short ceremony on Wednesday in the Wolverine field house.

The 6-0, 215-pound senior transferred to Polk prior to his senior season and made an immediate impact on the Wolverine defense, recording 86 tackles, 23 of those for a loss, with six sacks. He twice recorded double digits in tackles and made one of the plays of the season in Ollis’ mind, chasing down a Hendersonville runner in the open field to prevent a touchdown in the Wolverines’ 20-17 win.

“I think he’s deserving. Noah’s a good high school football player and a good student,” Ollis said. “He’s a relentless player and a coachable player. College football coaches are looking for that. He can run like the wind, especially for a guy that weighs 215, 220.

“Being a walk-on isn’t what is used to be. Teams are limited in the number of walk-ons they can take. Any time you are a walk-on, you’ve got to earn your keep. He’ll have to get in there and get noticed.”

Hudgins, who lives some 20 minutes from the Gardner-Webb campus, is ready to do just that.

“It means a lot. I love playing football,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without playing football.

“Nobody was really looking at me, so the only option I really had was to walk on.”

Hudgins, who tentatively plans to major in a business-related field, has been told he’ll report to campus in early August. He’s unsure where he’ll be playing on defense, and doesn’t really care – he’s just happy to have a shot to do so.

“Playing college football is something I’ve wanted to do ever since little league,” Hudgins said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Ollis thinks Hudgins could eventually play a role similar to what he did at Polk.

“Basically the position he played for us was a contain tackle, like a defensive end,” he said. “That’s a position they’ve talked about using him there. Seeing how he moves, and that he’s not really played much in space, he’s a guy who can go in there and set the edge.”

The Bulldogs are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 3 at home against Limestone. Gardner-Webb competes at the FCS level as a member of the Big South Conference.

Hudgens joins Trey Thompson, who will play at Averett University, as members of Polk’s 2019 team planning to continue their career at the next level.

“I’m proud of him and I’m happy for him,” Ollis said. “It’s a great opportunity for him and great for our program.”