As a youngster, JaJuan Hudson wasn’t allowed to play football because of a medical condition.
But he had a plan.
“I would always tell the doctor, ‘I’ll be the punter,’ ” Hudson said. “'Nobody will hit me.' ”
Hudson tried the same strategy with his parents.
“We used to take walks and he would kick everything,” Matthew Hudson said of his son.
Shemeika Hudson, JaJuan’s mother, said he asked her constantly about the sport.
"He would always say, ‘Mom, when can I play football?’ Shemeika Hudson said.
Just before seventh grade, following an MRI exam of his brain that lasted nearly two hours, JaJuan Hudson was cleared to play football.
On Wednesday, the senior at Camden High School signed a national letter of intent to attend Bowling Green University on a football scholarship.
“I know how far I’ve come,” Hudson said after a signing ceremony at Camden High’s temporary home at Hatch Middle School on Park Boulevard.
Hudson, a defensive back, and fellow Camden seniors Donald Williams, a defensive back who signed with Rutgers, and Ronald Custis, an offensive lineman who signed with Morgan State, posed for pictures with family, schoolmates and friends during the event in the gymnasium.
The day held extra-special meaning for Hudson’s parents, who still marvel that the boy who wasn’t permitted to play contact sports because of a condition known as Chiari malformation had earned a football scholarship.
JaJuan Hudson had been diagnosed at a young age with the condition, in which the lower part of the brain dips down in the bottom of the skull, putting pressure on the spinal cord. His symptoms were severe headaches.
“He wasn’t even allowed to dive head-first into the water,” Matthew Hudson said. “He always wanted to play football, but we didn’t think there was any way.”
Shemeika Hudson said JaJuan Hudson never lost faith that he would be able to take the football field.
“I would always tell him with God all things are possible,” Shemeika Hudson said. “He said to me, ‘Well, then I’ll be able to play football.’ ”
Hudson was cleared to play after the MRI at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia revealed that his condition wasn’t as serious as the original diagnosis.
“I still didn’t want him to play," Matthew Hudson said "My son’s health meant more to me than football. But the doctor was like, ‘He can play.’
“I was like, 'Are you sure?'
"My wife and I grilled him. We had to be sure. He said there was no reason he couldn’t play.”
Hudson was a four-year varsity player at Camden. This past season, he was a standout defensive back who also excelled as a kick returner, sparking the team to a 10-2 record and the No. 4 spot in the Inquirer’s final Top 25 rankings.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Hudson led the Panthers with six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns.
Hudson ran track and played baseball as a youngster but never stopped dreaming of taking the football field.
“I wasn’t angry,” Hudson said. "I just kept my faith in God and kept my passion alive. I always felt like I was going to go get mine.”
Hudson said his long wait to play football only increased his love for the sport and his appreciation of the opportunity to play at the college level.