Mike Kudla; A Friend… A Roommate… A Buckeye

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.

 

Don’t wait.

 

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.

 

14 Comments

  1. Jack Yost on July 17, 2018 at 5:27 am

    The memories describes why my pals and I always hug each other and reach out to each other as often as we can. And when someone reaches out to you, answer. You will not regret it.

  2. George Pallotta M.D. on July 17, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Very inspiring. I was a neighbor of Mike and family. Mike and his older brother help out in our when moved in. Watched that scrawny middle schooler, turn into a young man. As I watched him play football in High School, he was a ” man among boys” as he dominated. He had great parents, who, no doubt, instilled character, and kept him humble. His mom and dad, his biggest fans, made sure ” his head wouldn’t swell.” When I ran into Mike at his brother’s wedding, and again at a Highland Football game, after is OSU years, he was still a kind, and approachable. He told me that he had “retired” from the NFL, and was selling Insurance. Mentioned some of his OSU teammates, includling you Bobby Carpenter, held you and them high esteem.
    In his sudden passing, I am reminded that, “Life is a vapor.” My he Rest.
    Thank you for your reflections.

  3. Bobby Hodge on July 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Your so right. Never ever wait for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is never guaranteed. 😢

  4. Amanda R on July 17, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Thank you for this. I was one of Mike’s coworkers at Fisher and not only was he an inspiring mentor, he was a loyal friend. He and I just spoke last week as he was being featured on the Eleven Warriors countdown to kick off. We talked about being ready for Buckeye football and he told me he was proud of me for my recent career change.
    That was just last week. Now he’s gone. I just can’t believe it.

  5. Michael Husch on July 17, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Well said Bobby!

  6. Robin Smith on July 17, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    To his family and friends I offer my condolences. I remember when he got sick while playing for The Buckeyes. They didn’t think he would make it. But he did and throughout the rest of his short life made a name for himself. Too young to go but God said it was time. God Bless you Mike.

  7. Cheryl Sefchick on July 17, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    What a truly beautiful story about Mike. You captured Mike perfectly. Thank you for sharing. Mike was a colleague and a friend, and each time we talked, he truly inspired me. He was generous, kind and caring, loved Jacqueline, his family, friends and Coach Tressel. I so enjoyed the spontaneous phone calls I would get from Mike, enthusiastically sharing stories of the work he was currently doing. The man was a work horse and did not sleep much. Mike will be sorely missed by so many.

  8. Jennifer Koch on July 17, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Bobby, if you could spread word about our scholarship campaign in Mike’s name, it would be so greatly appreciated!

    https://www.gofundme.com/cybqx4-mike-kudla-highland-scholarship

  9. Cheryl Gates on July 17, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Heart felt message from a true Friend. Prayers for family and friends – Buckeye Nation has lost another great one 🙏

  10. Bill Watercutter on July 18, 2018 at 2:20 am

    So well said Bobby. I have had the fortune of calling Mike a friend the past five years although the phone calls from me regrettably were to few and far between. Mike had a heart of gold loved his family Jacqueline and OSU so much. The big dude was a big softy. I last saw Mike a couple of months back he seemed so excited about the future as he left he gave me the big bear hug I said I love ya man. I’m glad I said it. I will miss him dearly

  11. Bill Watercutter on July 18, 2018 at 2:30 am

    I have had the fortune of calling Mike a friend for the past five years. Regrettably my phone calls to him were to far a few between. The big dude was a big softy and had a heart of gold. He loved Jacqueline, his family, friends and all things OSU. He would always be there for any one in need. I last saw him two months ago, he was so excited about the future. When he left he gave me a hug. I got to say to him ‘love you man’. I’m so glad I said it.

  12. Ryan Phillips on July 23, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I toured the WHAC 3x with Mike. What an amazing person. He mentioned Bobby Carpenter every time. His Buckeye pride was contagious.

  13. Rima Bachuwa on July 26, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    That was a beautiful story. Thank you for that. ❤️

Leave a Comment