In Bruce Judson’s first game for the Cocoa High football team, he took the field as a ninth-grader playing in front of 5,000 fans at the University of Maryland’s Byrd Stadium against Washington D.C. Gonzaga.
The stage has always been bright for the Tigers quarterback. Judson started traveling to football camps as a fifth-grader, spreading his name to the point that, before he ever enrolled at Cocoa, he had already made a splash on the internet.
In Pop Warner, he rotated between quarterback and running back. At about the age of 12, he began to focus on playing quarterback. When he arrived at Cocoa, Judson weighed 170 pounds. Now 200 pounds and visibly leaner than he was last season, the 5-foot-9 player said he is bigger, stronger and even faster than he was three years ago.
In 2015, Judson produced 2,104 yards of total offense as he and the Tigers went 10-3. Though they advanced to a ninth-consecutive state semifinal game, the state final again eluded them.
On Friday, he talked about the recruiting process that led him to commit to the University of South Florida in late July, what he hopes that means for his teammates and what he expects for the Tigers this season.
Q: What have you learned as a person from football and from your time playing at Cocoa?
Judson: Character. Always carry yourself the way you want people to see you. Coach (John Wilkinson) always praises great character. Be on time. Lay it on the line for your brothers. Last year I played with broken ribs, and every game I laid it on the line for my teammates.
… I’m not really trying to step into Chevelle Buie’s shoes, because he was probably one of the greatest to ever play here, but that’s why I’m trying to work so hard. That’s why I work so hard and push the other guys. We’re trying to get back to where it was when he was here. We’re trying to win a state championship like coach Wilk always preaches.
The ’08, ’09 and ’10 team got this for us. Since then, we haven’t finished the job like they did. They finished the job. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been getting stopped short from finishing the job, and I know if I finish the job, there will be another run at Cocoa. That’s what I came here to do.
Q: What signs do you see from this team that makes you think it can take that step?
Judson: This team kind of reminds me of my sophomore year. The defense is nasty, fast, physical, hit you in the mouth every play. I just feel like we have to get in a little better shape, because we’re playing some really decent teams. As I sit back and really look, the last couple of years, we didn’t have a field goal kicker. Now I see our kicking game getting really strong. The offensive line, we have a lot of returning starters. I’m confident in this team.
Q: As you considered colleges, what were you looking for?
Judson: I’m looking for a program that’s going to come recruit (Cocoa). Great coaching staff. Somewhere I can go build my own legacy, not follow the pack. I really wanted to separate and go my own way.
Florida was one of my top schools, but I felt (Cocoa grads) Chauncey (Gardner) and Jawaan (Taylor) went there at the perfect time. Jamel (Dean) is going to have a lot of success at Auburn, probably will make a name for himself. Jawaan is already making a name for himself. Chauncey has proved himself. These are guys I played with. Tarean (Folston) went off to Notre Dame. James (Folston Jr.) is at Pitt. I decided to go to USF to build my own brand, help more kids from this area to come there.
I wanted to have a great relationship with the coaching staff. I wanted my parents to have a relationship with the head coach. I can have a great relationship with my position coach, but it’s up to the head coach to decide, “I’m going to put Bruce here,” or “I don’t think Bruce is ready. I’m going with this guy.”
Q: Are there one or two things about your game that you want to improve by the end of the year?
Judson: I’m really trying to be a vocal leader. I’m trying to lead my team, not just by example. If I want to become a Division I quarterback and play at that level, I have to carry myself that way. That’s what I’ve been working on. I’m really trying to make people remember my name when I leave here.
Q: What pro sports do you watch, and who are your favorite teams?
Judson: In the NFL, my favorite team is the Cowboys, but when I watch football, I’m always watching where the quarterback is looking, looking at coverages, look how the corners are playing. I always look at what the slot’s doing, what the wideouts are doing, how to elevate my game.
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2016 Tigers Schedule
Aug. 28 Jacksonville Trinity Christian at Cocoa, 2
Sept. 2 Cocoa at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, 10
Sept. 16 Lake Highland Prep at Cocoa, 7
Sept. 23 Cocoa at Viera, 7
Sept. 30 Kansas City Rockhurst at Cocoa, 7
Oct. 7 Daytona Beach Mainland at Cocoa, 7
Oct. 14 Orlando Jones at Cocoa, 7
Oct. 21 Cocoa at Astronaut, 7
Oct. 28 Cocoa at Pt. Orange Atlantic, 7
Nov. 4 Rockledge at Cocoa, 7