Shelton's Ryan Kudej rewarded for his academic prowess

Shelton football player Ryan Kudej with parents David and Vivian, scholar athlete chairman Kevin O'Brien and Shelton coach Mike DeFelice was honored by the Casey-O'Brien New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Shelton football player Ryan Kudej with parents David and Vivian, scholar athlete chairman Kevin O’Brien and Shelton coach Mike DeFelice was honored by the Casey-O’Brien New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Bill O’Brien / Contributed photo

Ryan Kudej was denied a senior football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now Shelton High’s Casey-O'Brien New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholar-athlete is going to take additional time off.

“I’m going to Gateway for two years and then transfer to a four-year school and try football,” Kudej said. “I’d been talking with Nichols. The COVID year hurt. I’m keeping a positive mindset. I’m weighing my options. I’m thinking of majoring in business. It is a broad field. It can lead to a lot of places in life.”

Shelton coach Mike DeFelice regrets not having the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Kudej for one more year.

“Ryan is one of those sad COVID football stories,” he said. “We had big expectations for him at defensive end and as a blocking tight end. With our short yardage stuff, we needed his kind of player. He would have fit that role perfectly for us. Ryan is an old-school, hard-nosed player. He never complained. You taught him something ad he was a technician making sure he did it right.”

Kudej was proud of his standing in the classroom that culminated with the award from the National Football Foundation.

“It really shows the work you can do on the field and in your classes. Studies are more important. I was proud to receive the award,” said Kudej.

DeFelice wasn’t surprised when the honor was bestowed or Kudej’s decision on schools.

“I had him in social studies class as a sophomore,” he said. “I said to myself that in a couple of years as a senior, that Ryan could win this award. It is not a shock to me. It was well-deserved. He is a great student and athlete.

“I think many kids are apprehensive about what the college experience (with the pandemic changes) was going to be like in the fall. Things are loosening up. But for a lot of kids who had to make those decisions a few months ago, it was still a question mark.”

Kudej missed more than scheduled games.

“It was disappointing. We were ready and looking forward to our senior season. Playing football is a bond. We create a brotherhood that never leaves you,” he said. “Now I’m waiting to see how this coming year’s team does.”

Scholar-athletes honoredThe Casey-O'Brien New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame high schoolers for work on the field and in the classroom.

“We were pleased to honor another group of outstanding young men for their accomplishments in the classroom, their school and the community,” Bill O'Brien chapter president said. "We couldn't deny worthy candidates of this prestigious honor just because they didn't play football this past fall.”

O'Brien polled the coaches and athletic directors of the chapter’s schools. They overwhelmingly thought it was a great idea to carry on the tradition.

This is the 61st consecutive year that players were honored for their academic excellence, leadership, and citizenship. Since 1962 the chapter has honored 1,283 scholar athletes from its 33 member schools.

willia m.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354