The news of Mike Kudla’s passing was a swift punch to the gut on a humid July morning.
After reading a text from another teammate asking if, “I had heard about Kudes”, it was highly unlikely the news was good, but never did I expect that he had passed away. It seemed almost surreal that on a day filled with tasks, when there was so much to do with so little time and energy, that I would learn of the passing of a teammate. One who left this world in the prime of his life.
He had all of the trappings of success, yet it obviously wasn’t enough.
Roughly every week or so I try to write something for my site. Recently I was struggling as to what it would be. Outside of the lack of competitive balance in the NBA, there wasn’t anything that was particularly inspiring.
It’s amazing the stuff the Lord can smack you with.
Mike was a teammate of mine for the Buckeyes from 2002-2005. We were both members of the storied 2002 recruiting class that finished up 2nd nationally. It was Jim Tressel’s first full class and we were supposed to return Ohio State to its rightful spot atop the national scene.
So during the recruiting process you meet other guys and eventually become friends. You play in All Star games together, travel the banquet circuit and slowly let down your competitive guard because this group will eventually become your teammates. It was no different with Kudes. He was one of the guys from Ohio who was tough, rugged, and hard nosed. It made him easy to like from the start.
After four years at Ohio State it is safe to say that Kudes was the strongest guy I played with in college. The guy was a monster in the weight room and always seemed to have a knack for making the big play in the big games. He had a deep bellowing voice that rivaled James Earl Jones and laugh that could fill any room.
I roomed with Kudes for a year at Ohio State and got a chance to see him where his patented black Oakley shades complimented his all black attire daily. The best part is we would give him a hard time about chewing a toothpick all the time that made him look like the Terminator. Kudes would always take it in stride… and then go bench 500lbs at our next work out.
Mike and I had lost touch somewhat (as college friends often do) after school. Life and careers got in the way, but a random encounter in 2013 changed all of that. I had just finished up a meeting about applying to the MBA program at Ohio State and while walking out of Fisher Hall I heard the voice that could only belong to Kudes. I followed it down a hallway and back into a random office where he was sitting.
It was a great meeting. We filled each other in our our last 5 years and what we had been doing. As it turned Kudes was managing development for the Fisher College of Business and we would see each other occasionally over the next 3 years. Eventually he left Ohio State and then the next time I heard of him was watching a video montage of the next chapter of his success.
Last year Mike named to the 40 under 40 list for Columbus Bizjournals and I couldn’t believe the stuff he was doing.
He was building Medical Centers across the state. After seeing this I knew it was time to contact him and congratulate him on the recent success. As fate would have it the day got away from me and then so did the next one. Before I knew it a year had passed and I never seized the moment. The next news I heard about Mike was about his passing.
Never wait to until tomorrow to reach out, because tomorrow may never come!
Everyone is fighting a tough battle and you might not know it. Give your friends a call and catch up because time and space have a way of distancing our friendships.
Rest easy Mike.