Fudge Shows Staying Power in the NFL

Fudge Shows Staying Power in the NFL

Former Clemson safety Jamaal Fudge's road to the NFL might not have been the same route to the professional ranks many other players take, but no matter the method, the end result was the same.

The three-year starter for the Tigers who played in 49 consecutive games made the Jags practice squad last year as an undrafted free agent.

After spending the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad, he was called up to the regular roster on November 20 and played special teams the remainder of the season.

Playing for the Jags is an added bonus since Fudge also grew up in Jacksonville.

CUTigers recently caught up with him from training camp and here is that conversation:

Jamaal, what has been the biggest on-field adjustment you have made to playing in the NFL?
Fudge: Learning the verbal communication and the new terminology at the line were the biggest adjustments for me. It's more of a verbal game than a speed game in the NFL. You have to be able to think fast and if you can do that, then you can also play fast. If you can't do that, then that will slow you down.

What about off the field?
Fudge: Off the field, you have to study your playbook a lot. You also have to ask questions if you don't know something. You don't want to get out there on the field and look lost because you didn't ask questions when you had the chance. You have to ask questions to get the right information so they can help you out.

What are your thoughts on your time at Clemson?
Fudge: My time was Clemson was a great one. It had a great atmosphere, great coaches and I think the program prepares you well for the next level. Coming to the NFL, I was already used to the positioning and things like that after being at Clemson. Playing there made my transition to the NFL easier.

"I have had to work extremely hard to get where the drafted guys are at and to get a contract of that nature. A high draft pick is automatically locked in and pretty much has a roster spot. But undrafted guys have to work harder than anybody else because there is always somebody out there trying to work harder than you and take your job."
Being an undrafted free agent, do you feel like you have a better appreciation for playing in the NFL than guys who were drafted highly?
Fudge: Yes, it's pretty different. I have had to work extremely hard to get where the drafted guys are at and to get a contract of that nature. A high draft pick is automatically locked in and pretty much has a roster spot. But undrafted guys have to work harder than anybody else because there is always somebody out there trying to work harder than you and take your job. You just have to keep working hard and stay on top of your game.

How is your second NFL training camp different from your first?
Fudge: A year ago, I was just kind of lost and trying to adjust to everything. I was learning new terminology and playing show. Now, I've got everything down pat. I am playing faster and just trying to make plays.

What's it like playing for your hometown NFL team?
Fudge: Playing in your hometown is pretty good but it has its ups and downs. People are always asking you for tickets and don't realize that you have to pay for them. It's kind of hard but you get used to it and try to limit the people you hang around with to the people who have been there for you from day one.

Do you plan on making it back to any Clemson games this year?
Fudge: I want to get to the Clemson/Florida State game, but that's on a Monday. So that will be pretty tough for me to do. Our bye week is September 29, so I might try and head back up that way around that time. Whenever they're on TV, I try and catch the game. I try to sit down, relax, watch football and pull for the Tigers.

What are your thoughts on the returning players at Clemson?
Fudge: I think they'll be pretty good. Quarterback and secondary are big keys for the team as a whole. Cullen Harper has been there for a while, knows the system and I think will run it pretty effectively. The corners that they have, a lot of them like Chris Chancellor have playing experience. They're pretty young but have experience. It's going to be a big test for them to stay focused on not worry about what people are saying about them being young. They just need to play hard.

You turned down Arkansas, Auburn and N.C. State for Clemson. What was it about becoming a Tiger that appealed to you?
Fudge: It was closer to home and the atmosphere was pretty nice. I got a warm welcome when I went there. Coach (Rick) Stockstill was just a down-to-earth recruiter and I gravitated to him more than any other recruiter. That sold me as well on Clemson.

You remember what it was like to play the Gamecocks every year during your time at Clemson. Sum up your feelings about the Clemson/South Carolina rivalry.
Fudge: It was a big deal to me but it's even bigger to the guys from South Carolina. We were 4-0 against them while I was there. I always brag to the South Carolina guys on my team about that. They won last year and this year, we are looking to take it back.


Jamaal Fudge (FSU/CU '04)

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