Schuck's Clipboard

Rudd showed there is magic in a smile

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 26, 2018 8:10 am Updated: Mar. 27, 2018 12:35 am

One of the common ways to describe someone with a bright, vibrant personality is to say their smile lights up a room.

That doesn't do Michael Rudd justice. His smile was so much brighter.

It lit up Blue Devil Gym on Friday nights. It sparkled on community courts every other day of the week. It was infectious enough that everyone felt a little of his magic.

Some will remember him as the jitterbug point guard at Quincy High School and Quincy College. Some can see him streaking around the bases as a top-flight slow-pitch softball player. Others knew him as a coach, a referee and a friend.

He was all of those and so much more. He was that smile.

Rudd died Saturday at age 56. A rare lung disease cost this community one of its great ambassadors. Rudd loved representing Quincy, enhancing his hometown and helping teach the next generation about basketball and life.

The outpouring of messages on social media is a testament to that.

Known by most people as "Magic," Rudd played two years of varsity basketball at QHS, handling the point guard duties for the 1979 team that went 32-1 and finished as the Class AA state runner-up.

His most memorable moment came with 14 seconds left in the second overtime of the state semifinal against Lisle Benet Academy. With the game tied at 51, Benet was inbounding from the sideline into frontcourt with a chance to set up a potential winning shot.

Benet's Kevin Conrad caught the inbounds pass, but Rudd stole the ball from behind, drove to the other basket and attacked the rim while being trailed by the Redwings' Mike Lang. Instead of challenging the 6-foot-8 Lang, the 5-7 Rudd tossed the ball back to Bruce Douglas, just a freshman, for the game-winning layup with six seconds remaining.

That play was watched on YouTube hundreds of times Saturday night.

The pictures posted to Facebook and Twitter told Rudd's story, too. Keith Douglas, Rudd's high school and college teammate and life-long friend, put together a "Remembering Michael Rudd" collage that had more than 50 pictures as of Sunday night.

Most of those photos were of Rudd's playing days, but friends and family snuck in a few photos of him coaching at the junior high level and refereeing games at all levels. Rudd often was referred to as a referee coach because he used his position to teach the game, not simply enforce the rules.

He did it with a smile no matter what.

It's been an emotional three months for the QHS boys basketball program. On the court, the Blue Devils won an outright Western Big Six Conference championship and then captured their first regional title since 2009.

Off the court, Rudd became the third former player to die this year.

John Fischer, a 1959 graduate and member of the Quincy Blue Devil Sports Hall of Fame, was a team captain and Quincy's leading scorer as a senior. He died in early February. Orville Thompson, a two-year letterman, a 1958 graduate and the younger brother of legendary Dick Thompson, passed away in late January.

They each played a part in building and maintaining the tradition that exists today. Rudd took great pride in that.

He took more pride in passing along the knowledge he gained being a Blue Devil to future players. Rudd might have been diminutive in stature, but he was larger than life in regards to the impact he made.

That's a reason to smile.