Mississippi Bloodlines: The Huddleston Men
It happens at some point every Friday night in the fall. A player will make a big play and the crowd will cheer. When this happens, somewhere standing along that sideline fence of a Mississippi high school football field someone will say, “Reminds me of his dad,” or, “He gets it honest,” or even, “You think he’s good, you should have seen his dad play.”
Kegan Huddleston is returning home this season. The former Tupelo high running back is now at Shannon high, just down the road. For the talented rising senior it is a homecoming, but not just to where he lives, but also where his father, Fred, starred in the late 70s.
While the two share many similarities on the gridiron, mainly success, excitement and play-making ability, it is off the field where they are mirror images of each other.
“Kegan is a good kid. His mannerisms and the way he obeys his mother and me. The way he commits himself to something when he wants it. His commitment to God. That is important to his mother and me,” Fred Huddleston told SES Mississippi. “He is kind and giving. His love for people is special. Kegan is an only child and he’s not a selfish kid. He likes to share his things and ideas and anything that can make someone else better.”
After starring as a Red Raider, Fred would go on to play at Southern Miss from 1980-1984. This summer Kegan has also made strides towards playing on the next level. After splitting carries with other backs last season, Huddleston has shined at camps and 7-on-7s this offseason. That includes two trips to Fortius Project camps, first on March 5th at Petal and then at ICC on April 30th. He earned all-combine team honors at both events.
“He’s so much better than I was,” Fred admitted. “One of the qualities that I see is similar to my game is his running, as far as his breakaway. He’s better on the inside. I might have been a little bit better on the outside, but he is better on the inside. He’s more shifty, but also he gets downhill better. He can catch better than I could. That agility is something he’s added to his game.”
“I wish I could have watched his game when I played so I could have added to my game.”
Playing where his father played is something that excites Kegan, but also something that is honored by. He respects his father’s accomplishments. He has his own goals, but he’s also proud of what he’s accomplished this off season.
“I will rush for over 2,000 yards. That’s what I want to accomplish, because my dad broke a lot of records at Shannon. My dad always told me to be better than him,” Kegan stated. “It’s a big honor to me. It’s really following in the same foot steps as him. It’s the same hallways and the same stands the he walked and played in.”
“I have improved on my speed and agility and strength, mainly my speed, this offseason. The Fortius camp helped. I didn’t like my 40-time at the first one and I came back to get under a 4.4. I worked hard late at night and running more hills. I kept grinding because I knew I could improve.”
Looking ahead to this fall, Kegan is excited to return to a team where he already has multiple close bonds and where he can go for a common goal with his teammates.
“My bond with this team is very, very, very strong. Everybody down here is family. A lot of us are related. We’re family. We’re always together. We’re more than just a football team. We always love each other and we always care about each other. We want to do something together,” He said. “There is speed everywhere. From the receivers to the quarterbacks to the running backs, we have versatility.”
Even more special, though, is that Kegan already has familiarity, trust and respect for Red Raider head coach Darryl Carter.
“He’s like my second dad. He always makes sure we are where we’re supposed to be. He makes sure we’re good. He’s God fearing,” Kegan explained.
The elder Huddleston is also a fan of coach Carter. In fact, he thinks the coach has the program exactly where it should be. Additionally, he, too, has noticed the natural connection between his son and the Red Raider head coach.
“Coach Carter has the program exactly where they need to be and things are starting to come together. They have a lot of the components they need,” Fred offered. “He’s a players coach, but that doesn’t mean he gives in to his players. It means he can get the most out of them and they respect him even when he’s getting on them because they know he cares and wants the best for them.”
“Kegan’s heart and leadership will help the team. He can draw other guys to do things the way he does them. His personality draws to Kegan.”