All-American. All-Pro, twice. On the staff of seven NFL teams, most notably with the Indianapolis Colts, where he served as the offensive line coach for more than 10 years. These are just a few accomplishments of the well-known Hillsdale legend, Howard Mudd.
After dying from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in early August at the age of 78, the Hillsdale community is remembering Mudd, the man who had a huge career but never forgot where it all began: Hillsdale College.
Mudd graduated from Hillsdale in 1964, where he played at tackle and guard, earning an NAIA All-American title and two Associated Press All-State player for winning teams awards. But the awards didn’t stop once he graduated.
After receiving an alumni award in 2007, Hillsdale College head football coach Keith Otterbein recalled a visit he had with Mudd.
“He was intelligent, charismatic, and had a presence about him,” Otterbien said. “He was down to earth and loved talking about football.”
The pair talked about Mudd’s experience coaching the Colts offensive line.
“We made a lot of changes after that meeting and fine-tuned our offense,” Otterbien said. “We were very fortunate to have him as an alum.”
The changes Otterbien would make due to Mudd’s suggestions played a big part in the team having its first winning record in eight seasons.
But Mudd’s coaching philosophy lived past the 2007 team. It remains in the Chargers offense today, and Danny Drummond, a 2018 graduate, noted that Mudd’s aggressive play style was a game changer.
“Mudd taught a short set, which is when we get our hands on the defensive line quickly to control the line of scrimmage, and make a good pocket for the quarterback,” Drummond said. “It is a great mindset for the offensive linemen to have for how they play. It is a much better mindset to have, to go and get them.”
Mudd was well respected, not only at Hillsdale, but also as a high school offensive lineman on Midland High School’s 1958 Michigan Class A State Championship team. Mudd’s high school teammate, Jim Townsend, also the great-uncle of a reporter of this piece, recalled that state-championship season as a memorable experience.
“It was wonderful,” Townsend said. “I think that’s why the football team is in the Midland County Hall of Fame. We were inducted in 1995.”
Midland High School was ranked No. 1 in the state heading into its final game of the season, against the No. 2 Bay City Central.
“We won 20 – 12. It was a close game,” Townsend said. “There were over 10,000 people jammed into the Bay City Central Stadium.”
Townsend said he thought Mudd would make it to the NFL as a player, as 70% of that 1958 team went on to play at the college level, but he never imagined Mudd’s successful coaching career.
“He was a very determined and very intelligent individual,” Townsend said.
Mudd’s knack for football both on and off the field brought him to great places after high school, some even much greater than Hillsdale. But even with that, he never forgot his beginning with the Chargers, whom he always spoke highly of, especially to former Colts head coach, Tony Dungy.
“I got to talk to Coach Dungy a few times,” Otterbein said. “He always said, ‘Howard talks about you guys all the time, he loves what you have done.’”
Not all Chargers had the honor of meeting Mudd, and while Drumond never had the opportunity to meet him himself, he said Mudd’s philosophy and memory always lives on with the team through stories and pieces of wisdom.
Generations of Chargers know the name, and even more know the impact Mudd had and continues to have. The Chargers may miss him, but his legacy will live on.
“As long as I am going to be here his impact will always continue,” Otterbein said.