When James Hudson learned he needed to switch from defensive tackle to offensive tackle after his first season at Michigan, the first player he thought of was Joe Thomas.
Hudson knew he needed to watch tape from any offensive tackle legend to learn the position. Thomas, the All-Pro and future Hall of Famer from the Cleveland Browns, was the perfect model to watch. So he Googled Thomas' name, clicked on the first YouTube link he saw and started studying.
"Joe Thomas, I look up to him," Hudson said in a video call with local reporters. "When I first got switched from defensive line to offensive line, I went to YouTube, and I typed in Joe Thomas. That was the first thing I did, just to learn some stuff, see how he plays the game and apply what he did to my game."
Now, Hudson will look to continue to blossom at the position with the same team as Thomas.
Hudson, a Toledo native, was drafted by the Browns in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. He emerged as one of the top tackle prospects of the draft class after becoming a full-time starter with Cincinnati, where he transferred after the 2018 season, and earning First Team All-AAC honors in 2020.
At 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds, Hudson immediately enters the competition as a swing tackle — he practiced both left and right tackle in college — and joins an offensive line that was the top-ranked unit in the NFL in 2020.
"I think we went to bed last night hoping that he would be there at this spot," said Glenn Cook, Browns Vice President of Player Personnel. "Just in terms of speaking to the position, you can never have enough big dudes who can move and can fit in the scheme. Just a really good fit and really good value for where we got him."
Hudson, of course, has plenty of room to develop after spending only three years as a tackle. Before he committed to Michigan, he was a four-star defensive tackle prospect at Central Catholic High School, where he earned First Team All-Conference honors as a junior and the Conference Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season. He received offers from Alabama, Miami and several other prestigious programs before deciding on Michigan.
In Ann Arbor, Hudson's career took a significant but positive change. His potential and chances to see the field would be higher if he transitioned to an offensive tackle, so he made the switch. Then, he transferred to Cincinnati, where he hoped to receive a chance to start in 2020.
The plan worked. And throughout the whole process, Hudson viewed the tape of Thomas.
"He is a very athletic tackle like I am," Hudson said. "He goes all out every time he goes onto the field, and I feel like that relates to me. I just feel like Joe Thomas is the type of guy who I looked up to and I still look up to."
Hudson isn't planning on stopping his review of Thomas' tape anytime soon, of course. Now, he'll likely have an opportunity to talk to Thomas himself and absorb even more technique tips on how to excel at the position.
"I can't wait to hear what he has to say and just learn something from the best," Hudson said. "He is probably one of the best offensive linemen to play the game so I just can't wait to learn and soak up some things from him.
"I still watch him now so I am pretty sure that is going to continue."