The high school football coaching community can be a small world. Competing constantly can cause coaches to get to know their opponents pretty well. For Cactus Shadows Head Football Coach Mike Hudnutt, he knows one coach and Valley icon better than most: Kurt Warner.
Warner and Hudnutt were roommates at the University of Northern Iowa. Hudnutt was an offensive lineman for the Panthers from 1990-1993 and earned second-team all conference honors in 1993, the year Warner was the conference player of the year.
Warner went on to have a storybook career, from bagging groceries, to the Arena Football League, and eventually the NFL, where he led three teams to the Super Bowl. After playing for the Panthers, Hudnutt began his coaching career at Simpson College, and eventually was a coach for the Iowa Barnstormers of the AFL, and then joined the high school coaching ranks in Iowa, and then Arizona.
Today, with their playing days behind both of them, they still stay in touch.
“We touch base occasionally. He’s a busy man, so it’s not as easy as it used to be,” Hudnutt said with a smile.
Hudnutt offered Warner a position on his coaching staff when Warner retired, but Warner turned him down to spend more time with his family. Warner still remains close to the sport as a broadcaster, and a coach at Desert Mountain High School, where his son, Kade, is a sophomore receiver.
“I was blessed to have a 12 year career in the NFL, but now I’m blessed with the freedom to chase my kids around and watch them and help out where I can,” Warner said. “That coaching thing just takes a little too much time for me, so I’m going to watch my kids grow up and help them where I can, but it would be fun to coach with (Hudnutt).”
Along with those shared experiences at the collegiate level, Warner and Hudnutt share the same mentality when it comes to providing for their players.
“We want to teach them and give them everything we can to fulfill their dreams, whatever that is. Whether it’s through leadership or hard work, perseverance, all of those things come to play on the football field, and they come to play in life,” Warner said.
In his first year at Cactus Shadows, Hudnutt is trying to build a foundation of long-term success. This is something he accomplished in college with Warner. Hudnutt’s freshman year, the Panthers won the first of seven consecutive Missouri Valley Football Conference titles.
That accomplishment is a source of pride for Hudnutt “to know that I was a part of that with my teammates and to establish (a) solid program at that level”.
So now, with one teammate working to build up a program, and another working to provide guidance in any way he can, these two former roommates are able to share the field again.