Not too often could a team stop Ian Rudzik.
The 6-2, 220-pound running back for the Ulysses Tigers had a memorable season, and he still has another one to go.
The junior did everything between pounding out yards and leaving opposing defenses in the dust as he swept across the football fields like a Kansas wind in amassing 2,061 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns, with his longest from 75 yards against Holcomb on the opening play of the game. And he did the same against Buhler in a first-round Class 4A-I playoff battle.
That calculates to 9.3 yards a carry and 206.1 yards a game.
For his performance, Rudzik was name The Telegram’s All-Area Football Player of the Year and was voted the No. 7 area sports story of the year.
It’s been easy to notice his ascension to the yardage throne.
In his debut to the varsity scene in 2012, the freshman ran 13 times for 146 yards and a touchdown in his first game, on his way to a season in which he gained 1,187 yards on 165 carries (7.19 yards a carry, 131.9 yards a game) and 15 touchdowns, his longest from 71 yards.
He also had a receiving touchdown.
He had to sit out two games that year with an injury suffered early in the season.
As a sophomore, Rudzik played in all 10 games, carrying 206 times for 1,987 yards (9.65/198.7).
He scored 26 touchdowns, with his longest going for 77 yards.
So in just three seasons, Rudzik has carried the ball 592 times for 5,235 yards and 67 touchdowns.
His best game came at Goodland, where he rushed for 312 yards on just 12 carries, four of those for scores.
He had a game against Colby in which he rushed for six touchdowns and 277 yards on just nine carries.
Rudzik has also improved a lot on the defensive side. In 2014, he had 100 tackles (61 solo) and two interceptions, one of which he returned 92 yards for a score. It was the first season for him to play full-time on that side of the ball.
That makes 140 tackles in three years, 89 of those solos.
Head coach Jason Kenny cites Rudzik’s strength and speed for allowing him to be a two-way threat.
“On offense, he became a more patient runner. In the past, he just looked to run over people. Now, he’s waiting for the block to materialize,” he said in a November interview.
Rudzik is a solid body, and opposing backs tend to shy away from him, Kenny noted.
“He’s a very physical player,” he said, “and in the open field, he’s very tough to bring down.”
Rudzik said he just likes tackling people, causing the pain.
Rudzik said he has worked at avoiding being taken down on a first hit.
“I just try to make sure my knees are staying up, so I don’t trip over things on offense. I just try to flop around and stay on my feet as much as I can,” he said.
Rudzik was named last year to the Class 4A all-state first team.
Kenney notes the junior’s maturation process has grown along with his productivity.
“He matured mentally, he’s become a better leader, a harder worker,” he said.
Where does Rudzik rank in the pantheon of Tigers players?
“We’ll give him one more year to say that he’s the best player in Ulysses football history,” Kenny said. “But certainly he deserves to be talked about as one of our best.”
As a 3-star recruit by rivals.com, Rudzik has another year to prove what he can do.
But if history repeats, he could easily surpass even his own lofty expectations.