by Frank AcetO
Associate Sports Editor
When the Hudson High School football team went to Cedar Point during the offseason, Hudson senior linebacker Ben Hart got to ride one of the tallest, steepest and fastest roller coasters in the world.
Let's just say his heart was racing immediately after the ride began.
"It's not one of those rides that takes you up slowly," Hart said of his experience on the Top Thrill Dragster. "It shoots you right up."
While such a rush can be exhilarating and possibly terrifying to some, it didn't seem to rattle Hart at all.
If you watched him and his never-ending motor punish opposing ball carriers in 2013, it was easy to see why.
Hart, who also saw some time at fullback in 2013, signed a national letter of intent to continue his academic and football careers at Davidson College, which is located in Davidson, N.C. He plans to major in economics and psychology.
The Wildcats compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Davidson could certainly use the relentless linebacker.
The Wildcats finished 0-11 overall and 0-8 in the Pioneer Football League in 2013.
Regardless of Davidson's difficulties last year, Hart plans to do everything he can to change the culture.
That is simply how the senior is wired.
"You can't take plays off," Hart said. "You have to go 100 percent all the time. It's like coach [Hudson defensive coordinator Jeff] Gough said, you can't make a mistake if you go 100 percent."
While the chance to turn a struggling football program around was intriguing, Hart also was enticed by Davidson's academic program.
"It's one of the top schools in the country," he said. "It's known as the Harvard of the South. It has a lot of great connections in the Charlotte area."
During his visits to Davidson, Hart got to meet first-year head coach Paul Nichols and the rest of his staff.
Let's say the coaches made a very favorable impression on the hard-nosed senior.
"They have some young guys on the coaching staff with a lot of enthusiasm," Hart said. "They had a lot of intensity and energy."
Hart's final two years at Hudson proved to be quite a whirlwind.
He was penciled in as the starting quarterback at the beginning of his junior year. But Hart suffered a wrist injury and missed most of the season. When he returned to the field several games later, Wright had to find another position.
That's because his replacement, Mitch Guadagni, became one of the best quarterbacks in the area.
But that didn't deter Hart.
He switched to the fullback spot and became a menace on defense.
"I was just happy to get back on the field," Hart said. "It didn't matter what position I was playing. I played linebacker and was a running back with the Hudson Hawks."
Hart didn't have any health issues in 2013 and earned first-team All-Northeast Ohio Conference River Division honors. He led the team in tackles with more than 100.
But such accolades were only part of Hart's legacy at Hudson. According to Explorers' head football coach Ron Wright, Hart was a natural leader.
"Ben had a great rapport with the coaching staff and the players," Wright said. "He was always on top of things. His mother, Lori, was the team mom. He comes from an outstanding family."
One of those family members was his older brother Jake, an offensive lineman who graduated from Hudson in 2012.
"I got to play quarterback my sophomore year when Dave Nelson got hurt," Hart said. "Jake was the one who snapped the ball to me. That was definitely something we will both remember for the rest of our lives."
Hart thrived as a senior despite having to replace a legend. Ben Gedeon, the team's record-breaking linebacker and tailback, graduated in 2013 and had a stellar first year with the University of Michigan.
But thanks to Hart and his talented teammates, the Explorers didn't miss a beat.
They finished 10-2 and reached the Division I playoffs for the third consecutive year.
"Not a lot of kids get to play with someone who is one of the best players in the country," Hart said. "He made my job easier. He's a great guy who really helped me learn the defense."
Although Hart basically became the leading man at linebacker when Gedeon graduated, he wanted to separate himself from his talented ex-teammate.
"I never tried to replace him," Hart said. "I didn't want to be Ben Gedeon. I wanted to be the best Ben Hart I could be."
He didn't disappoint.
Wright just wishes he could have seen Hart on the field more often than he did.
"He is a valuable piece of Hudson history," Wright said. "He has had a great career. He has high academic standards and Davidson has great academics. It's a good fit for him."