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Hudson grad Ben Gedeon has eyes on NFL career

By ROGER GORDON Correspondent Published: March 5, 2017 12:10 AM
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It happens all the time.

High school football players born and raised in Ohio opting to play in college at "That School Up North."

It can't be easy, what with scarlet blood running through their veins.

Ben Gedeon didn't have that problem.

"I didn't necessarily grow up as an Ohio State fan," the 2013 Hudson graduate said. "I was always just kind of a Big Ten fan."

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Gedeon graduated from the University of Michigan in December with a degree in economics after a stellar senior season at inside linebacker in which he helped the Wolverines to a 10-3 overall record and a 7-2, third-place finish in the East Division of the Big Ten Conference.

Michigan was ranked second in the Associated Press poll for three weeks in late October and early November and had a legitimate shot at qualifying for the College Football Playoff. A 14-13 upset loss at Iowa Nov. 12 was a killer, as was a stinging 30-27 double-overtime "instant classic" defeat two weeks later at Ohio State, a game in which Gedeon had 10 tackles and a sack. Gedeon's college career ended with a 33-32 loss to Florida State Dec. 30 in the Orange Bowl.

"That game against Ohio State was real exciting," he said. "Obviously, growing up in Ohio, it's a big game every year. It's like a holiday, so to actually be a part of the game was pretty special."

From the time he eschewed Ohio State's full scholarship offer, not to mention several other feelers from across the country, and instead accepted a full ride to play at Michigan and throughout his four years in Ann Arbor, Gedeon certainly endured his share of ribbing from friends back home about choosing the maize and blue over the scarlet and gray.

"It was good-natured, all in good spirit, because everyone close to me knew Michigan was the best fit for me academically," he said.

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The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Gedeon started all 13 games for Michigan in 2016 and led the team with 107 tackles, 41 of which were solo. He also had 15.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 2 passes defended. He was All-Big Ten second team as voted by the media and All-Big Ten third team as voted by the coaches.

Gedeon also won the Roger Zatkoff Award as Michigan's top linebacker. He was Defensive Player of the Game in routs of Penn State (11 tackles) and Rutgers (N.J.). He had a season-high 14 tackles in a victory over Colorado, 11 tackles in a blowout of Maryland and a dozen tackles in a Senior Day win over Indiana. He played sporadically on the special teams, too, and was Special Teams Player of the Game in a 14-7 triumph over Wisconsin. He also played in the Senior Bowl and was Academic All-Big Ten for the second straight year.

"We had the number one defense in the country last season, so I had a bunch of great guys around me that made playing linebacker pretty easy," said the ever-humble Gedeon.

By the time Gedeon arrived at Hudson High as a freshman in the summer of 2009, the Explorers' coaching staff was well aware of his talents.

"We knew from Ben coming up through the seventh and eighth grades, watching him play, that he was a man among boys," said Ron Wright, Hudson's head coach his last three years. "He was so much bigger, stronger and faster than most of his opponents, so he dominated.

"We were licking our chops, knowing we were going to have this Gedeon kid because we knew his older brothers and knew what kind of kids they were. We knew he was going to be big-time. We felt we had a Division I football player. Through summer camps and watching him develop and grow and seeing his work ethic and being as bright as he was, he was a no-doubter."

As a freshman, Gedeon played on the junior varsity team but also saw considerable action on the varsity squad at both inside linebacker and running back.

Gedeon started at the same two positions from his sophomore year on. As a 10th grader, he had 105 tackles and 5 sacks, and he totaled 500 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards and, believe it or not, 300 passing yards. He made All-Ohio third team.

Gedeon had 120 tackles as a junior. He also carried the ball 196 times for 1,418 yards and had 27 total touchdowns. As a senior, he earned AP Division I All-Ohio first team honors at inside linebacker. He also amassed more than 1,300 yards of offense and scored 14 touchdowns.

"I've always loved playing defense," he said, adding that he will never forget playing with his older brother Sam his freshman year. "I'll also never forget our first playoff win my junior year against Findlay I think in double overtime."

"Ben has football smarts," said Wright, whose teams broke a dry spell by qualifying for the Division I state playoffs each year from 2010-12. "As a linebacker, he just knows where to go. Instinctually, he has what you 're looking for. He sees things, he understands the game. He's also a very good athlete. He can run and attack the ball. He was an excellent running back, too. He was big, strong, fast and was able to catch the ball, all the things you want."

"I enjoyed playing under coach Wright," Gedeon said. "Hudson has a great group of coaches and that's why I had so much success there."

Gedeon also was named to the U.S. Under-19 National Team, for which he played an all-star game in February of his senior year that was billed as "U.S.A. vs. the World."

"We played guys a couple years older than us from all over the world, mostly Canadians. We won pretty big," he said.

Gedeon played mainly on the special teams his first three years at Michigan.

"My freshman year, there was an upperclassman linebacker, Jake Ryan, who played at Cleveland St. Ignatius and now plays for the Green Bay Packers, who I looked up to," Gedeon said. "He kind of showed me the ropes."

In five games at inside linebacker his freshman year in 2013 under head coach Brady Hoke, Gedeon had 19 tackles, 9 of which were solo, and a tackle for loss. He had a season-high 6 tackles and his first career sack in a memorable 42-41 loss to Ohio State at Michigan Stadium. Michigan finished 7-6 that year.

Gedeon played in 10 games at inside linebacker his sophomore year, totaling 17 tackles, 12 of which were solo, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He returned a blocked punt 32 yards for a touchdown in a season-opening rout of Appalachian State (N.C.). Unfortunately for he and his teammates, the Wolverines finished just 5-7, including a 42-28 loss at Ohio State.

In 12 games, including one start, at inside linebacker his junior year in 2015 under first-year head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Gedeon amassed 34 tackles, 21 of which were solo, and three tackles for loss. Michigan improved to 10-3 overall and 6-2 and in third place in the Big Ten East. Included was a 42-13 home defeat to Ohio State, a game in which Gedeon had a season-high seven tackles, and a 41-7 drubbing of Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

Gedeon wound up with 177 career tackles, 83 of which were solo, 21 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 2 passes defended. He enjoyed playing for both Harbaugh and Hoke.

"I have a lot of respect for Brady Hoke," he said. "Coach Harbaugh is an excellent coach. I think he brings a sense of urgency. Everything turned into a competition when he got there. It didn't matter who you were, a walk-on, a senior I think that made us all better."

It was quite a culture shock when Gedeon went from playing in front of 6,000 or fewer fans at Hudson Memorial Stadium and before that 3,000 or less at Lavelli Field, to playing in front of upwards of 115,000 fans at "The Big House."

"It was a huge thrill," he said. "There's really nothing better than running out on to that field, jumping up and touching the banner and all the tradition that's involved with Michigan football. It was great to be a part of that."

Now for The $64,000 Question: Does Gedeon have a future in professional football, a dream he has had since he was a young boy? He is doing all that he can to make that dream come true.

For two solid months leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine that began Feb. 28 and is scheduled to conclude March 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, he participated with 24 other NFL hopefuls, including a handful of his Michigan teammates, at the EXOS program in Carlsbad, California, one of several across the country. The program prepares players for all aspects of the Combine, including training, nutrition, physical therapy services, position-specific coaching and interview training.

After the Combine, Gedeon will return to his home in Ann Arbor. He hopes to get chosen, of course, but is playing it cool regarding his prospects for the NFL Draft April 27-29.

"If I do get drafted, I don't really care what team it is," Gedeon said. "I'll play anywhere, but it would be pretty cool to play in Cleveland. I grew up a Browns fan and my family and friends could come watch me play."

Those same friends, especially the ones who kidded him about playing for Michigan, better prepare themselves.

After all, he could get drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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