The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
Khaleke Hudson always wanted to be in the NFL when he was growing up.
As a safety at McKeesport High School in Pennsylvania, Hudson was one of the most dominant high school athletes in the country. He recorded 60 tackles and three interceptions in his senior year, which helped him become the No. 1 prospect in Pennsylvania and No. 24 nationally.
He continued to excel at Michigan by becoming a three-time All-Big Ten honoree and Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He shattered records (eight tackles for a loss in a single game against Minnesota in 2017) and embodied the Wolverines' Viper position.
Once Washington drafted him with a fifth-round pick in April, Hudson wanted to stay prepared for whenever he would receive an opportunity. After leading the team with eight tackles against the Seattle Seahawks, it seems that chance has finally arrived.
"It's just a blessing," Hudson said after the game. "I've just been getting ready, doing what I have to do all season, being on special teams. It's always staying ready, always listening to what the older guys are telling me at practice and taking everything in so when my time came, I'm always ready."
Hudson has been a special teams contributor all year, but he did not make his debut on defense until Week 13. And not only was it against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, it was also on a fourth-and-goal at Washington's 1-yard line. He was part of the effort that helped keep running back Benny Snell out of the end zone, preventing the Steelers from taking a 14-0 lead.
Two weeks later, Hudson received another opportunity with Cole Holcomb and Kevin Pierre-Louis out with injuries. He played 28 snaps, which was second on the team among linebackers, and had four solo tackles and a quarterback hit.
"When guys get opportunities, they shine," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That's what we got from Khaleke. I thought he did a nice job. Again, he's an athletic, young football player that still has a lot to learn. He got an opportunity and took advantage of it."
Arguably Hudson's biggest play came when Washington needed it most. The team was trailing, 20-15, and the Seahawks had the ball with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Seattle hoped to run out the clock with its running game, which had gained 188 yards up to that point, but Hudson broke through the line of scrimmage to bring down running back Chris Carson for a four-yard loss.
Seattle was forced to punt three plays later, giving Washington the ball back with plenty of time to take a late lead.
"Just execution for me," Hudson said. "Just doing what the coaches told me to do. I give credit to my teammates helping me and putting me in position and doing what they do to help it be easier for me. I just give all the kudos to them and all the kudos to the coaches helping me this week and this season be ready for when my number was called."
It is unclear when Hudson's next opportunity will come, but he proved that he can be effective if the coaches ever need him. So, the next time the coaches need someone to fill in for one of their routine starters, they know they can rely on Hudson.
"Finally being here and being able to leave my mark on the game and doing whatever I can do to help us come out on top -- it's been a heck of a feeling," Hudson said. "I'm just so happy to be here. I'm going to keep going and doing what I do every day."
-- "They've got nothing to play for but pride": Rivera has already said he is more worried about getting his team to the playoffs than facing the Carolina Panthers -- his former team. The Panthers have begun a rebuilding process since Rivera left, and even though they are 4-10 for the season, he does not plan to underestimate them. Special teams fakes could be in play, as well as trick plays. The Panthers will be pulling out all the stops, he said, and they will be hungry for a win.
"They've got nothing to play for but pride, development," Rivera said. "To me, we've got to approach this game as if everything is on the line in terms of that for both teams. Again, this is a young football team we're facing. They don't quote unquote know any better. We're a young football team. We don't know any better [but] we have something at stake. We have to focus on what's at stake, and that is the opportunity to win our division and get into the playoffs."
-- "Be where your feet are": Rivera is known for his many sayings and mantras. He said "don't draw me a map unless you've been there" when explaining his rationale for hiring defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and he often brings up that it takes 5,000 reps for a player to learn technique. Now that Washington is potentially one win away from capturing the NFC East, Rivera has another phrase for the next two weeks: "Be where your feet are."
"I tell them: 'Whether you're here at the facility, you're here at practice, you're here at meetings or you're at home -- wherever you are, just be there wholeheartedly. Pay attention to your environment.'"
Check Out What's On WashingtonFootball.com: