BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It didn't take long for Quinshon Judkins to get going on Thursday night.
The Ole Miss running back commitment led Pike Road (Ala.) High School onto the field for the Class 5A state championship game versus Pleasant Grove (Ala.), and took his first carry of the night for 7 yards, the next for 9. The Patriots scored on the next play.
Judkins would cap two of the next three drives for a score, including a 43-yard burst up the middle right in front of his future coaches. Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Kevin Smith had the best view on the Protective Stadium sidelines.
Pike Road rolled to a 51-14 win and Judkins was named the game's MVP having scored three times as part of his 33-carry, 173-yard performance.
"It's a great feeling, there's no better feeling," he said after the game. "It's been my goal since day one, to come in and win a state championship with everybody I've worked hard with since day one in the summer time.
"It's a surreal moment right now, but I knew if we worked hard on going 1-0 every week, we would eventually get to this point. I can't explain it."
Judkins didn't have an easy path to the perfect season completed Thursday. He was an original member of the Pike Road School football team in the seventh grade, when the program was established. Plenty of ups and downs were met before the 2021 campaign.
Even then, he was banged up with a hamstring injury early in the season. So patience had to become a factor in a return.
"It was adversity that hit,' Judkins said. "I came in banged up and supported my team through the first five games, I supported the team. I worked my way back, going 100% every week to help the team as much as I can."
Early in his prep career, the senior running back would have been hard pressed to imagine capping a 14-0 season with an MVP effort in front of Kiffin and Smith.
"I was expecting them to come," he said with a smile. "I saw Coach Kiffin, even though he was trying to hide with his little hat. Then the camera was on him. It's a great feeling. I wanted to showcase what I can do, not only to Coach Kiffin but to myself, to my teammates and everybody else.
"I just wanted to show that I'm the best back."
Smith, a former college and NFL running back himself, was visibly excited to see his future back making big plays on a major stage. He and Judkins have built a relationship that stretches beyond the projection to the next level, though.
"Coach Smith is a great coach, he's a great guy and we have a great relationship," he said. "Ever since I've been there on campus, I've felt like we connected. He's a great coach, on and off the field. He teaches me how to be successful in football but also in life.
"With him, it's just not about football, it's about life after football and what you're gonna be doing five, ten years from the end of your career."
As Judkins looks towards the next step, though he admits many programs continue to court him on the recruiting trail, he is of course paying close attention to Ole Miss.
"A lot," he said with a laugh. "They were 10-2 this year and I've been watching them for a long time. They had a pretty good season this year with Coach Kiffin. I feel like I can play in that system, I watch the running backs a lot with Coach Smith, Coach (Jeff) Lebby and Coach Kiffin in how they use them in the running game -- no matter what it is, zone runs, or anything."
Judkins finished the 2021 season with 1,524 yards and 26 touchdowns in nine games of action.
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