Jerry Rice’s nickname is “Greatest Of All Time.”
Terrell Hudgins broke some of Rice’s most impressive receiving records.
Hudgins is arguably the best player that nobody outside of an NFL war room has heard of. The Elon star, a FCS All-American all four seasons, holds most of Division I’s significant career receiving records.
His 395 receptions are the most in Division I, either the second-tier FCS or the elite FBS. His 5,250 receiving yards obliterated Rice’s Division I record by more than 550 yards. His 28 games of 100-plus receiving yards beat Rice’s Division I record by four. His 123 catches as a senior set a FCS record, and his career averages of 8.8 receptions, 116.7 yards and 1.2 touchdowns also are FCS records.
“It’s an honor. It means a lot,” said Hudgins, who frequently wore a Rice jersey to school and “always played” with the 49ers on video games. “I hope these NFL scouts think the same thing about it. It’s something special and I think I put a lot of work into it.”
Hudgins, a record-setting high school quarterback and North Carolina’s player of the year as a senior, was recruited to East Carolina as an athlete. During the first day of practice, he was moved to linebacker. He tried it for a week.
“I figured I’d be much happier playing offense for four years of college than doing something I didn’t want to do,” Hudgins told Packer Report.
Hudgins transferred to Elon, where he was going to play quarterback. Forced to redshirt because of NCAA transfer rules, Hudgins worked as a wide receiver on the scout team. By the end of the season, Hudgins asked to be moved to receiver.
Turned out to be a good decision.
“Yeah, he did some good things in his career,” Elon coach Pete Lembo said with a laugh.
As a freshman, Hudgins caught 69 passes for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns — including 14 catches and a touchdown in his collegiate debut against a South Florida secondary anchored by Mike Jenkins, who plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
It was the start of a staggering career.
As a sophomore, he caught 117 passes for 1,474 yards and 18 touchdowns. He followed that with 86 catches, 1,116 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. That was a prelude to his record-setting senior swan song, when he hauled in 123 passes for 1,633 yards and 16 touchdowns. That included 13 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest. He caught at least 10 passes in eight of 12 games.
Hudgins said he had good hands from “Day 1” of his move to receiver, but it took him about a year-and-a-half to get comfortable with the nuances of the position. As defenses schemed to take him away, Hudgins and the coaching staff diversified his menus of routes instead of the staple of screens, hitches and go routes.
WR Terrell Hudgins
“I think his greatest strength is his hand-eye coordination,” Lembo said. “He has made some ridiculous catches over the course of his career — ‘SportsCenter’-worthy catches. His other big attribute is he’s a big guy. He uses his body well.”
Hudgins made Elon, N.C., a must-stop location on the scouting trail over the last two seasons. A handful of teams watched Hudgins’ private workout recently, and the Packers — renowned for leaving no stone unturned — were one of them, a source from the conference told Packer Report. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder ran his 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds (on grass) and received plenty of positive feedback from the scouts in attendance. No teams have mentioned moving him to another position, he said.
Hudgins admits that he loves to talk during a game. During one game last season, he reportedly stiff-armed his defender while going out of bounds. He proceeded to pick up the cheerleader’s cone to talk through it.
“I like having fun,” he said. “I talk a little bit but by the second half or the end of the game, whoever I was talking to, I’m making sure I talk to them after the game and everything’s good. I like just having fun, I like joking around. It’s not anything you’d hear about on ESPN about how terrible of a guy I am. I just like having a little bit of fun.”
That statement is backed up by his coach.
“He is truly a great person. He just has a big heart,” Lembo said. “He really embraced the visible role he had in this community. He always conducts himself with class. It seems like every young person in this community has had a handshake with him or a pat on the back. We call him the ‘unofficial mayor of Elon.’”
Even with his prodigious production, Hudgins likely will be a sixth- or seventh-round pick — at best — according to Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber. He’s big but he’s not 6-foot-4, either. He doesn’t have rocket speed. He’s not a kick returner. Nonetheless, he’ll get a chance somewhere. All of those numbers must mean something.
“It’s hard to imagine that a guy who’s broken so many NCAA records, including Jerry Rice’s, would not get a chance to show up in camp somewhere,” Lembo said.
That’s all Hudgins wants.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll make it,” he said. “No doubt in my mind. I feel like I can start for someone. I know I need some work in certain areas but I know I can make it.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.