by Pamela Young, Published March 25, 2009
YPSILANTI —Judson Rambaud has been playing football since he was six years old. That love of the game continued when, in his senior year of college, he was the only walk-on to be chosen to play last season for the Eagles, Eastern Michigan University’s football team.
The Massillon, Ohio native recently took his skills as a safety and a member of the Eagles’ special teams to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the San Antonio Alamo Dome, in early January. Rambaud, 23, was one of only 18 ROTC cadets nationwide chosen to work with more than 500 outstanding high school seniors representing 271 colleges.
A senior at Eastern Michigan, Rambaud is majoring in applied sociology with a double minor in criminology and military science. He is a graduate of Akron St. Vincent St. Mary High School.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is the nation’s premier high school football game – the All-Star game for seniors, which has served as the launching pad for America’s future college and NFL stars. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the three-day event highlights the students’ football activities, skills and talent, and attracts coaches, current and former pro football players, and the media. The event culminates in the East versus West Bowl game.
“The All-American Bowl represents what the Army is all about,” said Capt. John Samples, from Eastern’s ROTC program. “ It represents excellence, dedication, hard work and sacrifice. Judson is an outstanding cadet and a good student.”
Rambaud worked with the players as they competed in skills challenges such as agility drills; provided some coaching tips; was interviewed by several reporters shown live on the web, and met “all-soldier-heroes” who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, including several seriously wounded in combat.
“It was inspiring because the students were exposed to the strength and character of these soldiers, who had the mental strength to cope with the cards they had been dealt,” Rambaud said. “I saw guys with a prosthetic leg kicking the football 30 yards.”
He also spoke to two groups of approximately 400 students.
“My first speech was about my background,” he said. “The second was about physical and emotional strength. Everyone has some physical strength. It’s how you use it. Emotional strength will help you get back up.”
Rambaud is a long way from his family’s farm, called Obie Lane, in Massillon, Ohio where he grew up bailing hay for their Black Angus cattle.
Massillon is a hotbed of high school football, he said. His family’s farm is named after Obie the Tiger, the Massillon High School mascot. Even baby boys born at the local hospital are given small Massillon Tiger footballs.
While at Eastern, Rambaud and his fellow cadets competed in the Frozen Chosen competition, an ROTC event, at Northern Michigan University. Eastern fielded two teams that tested their skills in such cold weather events as an 18-mile run, carrying a 35-pound ruck sack, rappelling, paddling a canoe across a lake and pulling a sled.
He also competed in the ROTC Ranger Challenge, where he and other EMU cadets tackled five skill-challenging timed events against “the best of the best of ROTC” from across the country.
But life isn’t all competition and ROTC training. He interns at the Ozone House’s Youth Drop-In Center in Ypsilanti, where he works with teens. Ozone House provides a safe place for young people and helps keep them off the streets.
“I’m working on coordinating with other organizations, so kids can watch plays and participate in other activities. I teach fitness exercises,” Rambaud said. “I have experience with teens, ages 13 – 20, and help them with skills to use in the work force.”
In addition to the honor of being chosen for the Bowl game, Rambaud is the recipient of the American Veterans Award, and the Battalion Commander’s Athlete Award. He also won the Platinum Physical Training Award, the highest award given by the Army for physical fitness.
Rambaud is already planning for his future when he graduates from Eastern this April. He recently signed with the Michigan National Guard and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduation. His goal is to serve in the Special Forces.