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True freshman RB Dudeck 'The Natural'

NEWTON, Mass. -- Call it a freshman moment.

Like its more well-known sibling, the senior moment, a freshman moment involves a temporary mental lapse. But instead of a fleeting memory loss -- Why did I come into this room, anyway? -- it's a fleeting feeling of self-consciousness: Wait, does this coach not know my name?

David Dudeck III has had a few moments like that in practice the past couple of weeks, when he thought maybe Boston College coach Frank Spaziani didn't remember who he was.

"He's saying something with an 'H,' I'm hearing 'Hobbs, Hobbs, Hobbs,'" Dudeck said before practice Wednesday. "We'll break out of the huddle and I'll line up in the backfield and he goes, 'Oh, watch Hobbs, watch Hobbs,' something like that. And I'm like, 'Who is he talking about right now? Last time I checked my name was Dudeck. Who is this Hobbs guy? Does he know my name?'"

Eventually, the true freshman from Hamilton, N.J., figured out that Spaziani was actually using a nickname for him. The 6-foot, 195-pounder had become Roy Hobbs, of "The Natural."

Standing just off the grass of Shea Field as the team warmed up for practice, Spaziani was told Dudeck had finally figured out his new nomenclature.

"He's a freshman, so ..." Spaziani said, chuckling a little at how long it took for his joke to sink in.

The truth is, the plan was to redshirt Dudeck this year. He was originally brought in -- getting his offer the Friday before signing day -- by defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Siravo, with the idea being that the athlete would settle on the defensive side of the ball.

But once he got to Chestnut Hill, things began to change.

"He asked if he could play a little receiver during 7-on-7s in the summer and he actually seemed really shifty and pretty athletic," wideout Alex Amidon said. "I didn't know if he would play at all [this season] but I definitely saw him being able to make plays and stuff."

Chase Rettig knew a good pair of hands when he saw one. He told the assembled media Wednesday that he lobbied for Dudeck to switch to offense after the summer sessions. (Spaziani laughed when he heard that, saying that if Rettig lobbied someone it wasn't him.)

"He looked pretty natural at it," Rettig said. "And he played quarterback when he was in high school."

Dudeck played many things in high school, but we'll get back to that in a bit.

The way the quarterback remembers it, "I was like, 'You're gonna end up playing offense,'" Rettig said. "And he was like 'I think Siravo wants me to play defense.'"

"We made the decision early that he's a football player," Spaziani said. "We like him. ... Then when we have all our issues at running back, we shock his ecosystem and tell him he's a running back."

The issues at running back include some early-season fumble-itis, the drop off the depth chart of Deuce Finch and an injury to Tahj Kimble that eventually required surgery.

And so Dudeck was switched to the position, earning his first action against Clemson.

"We try it, and put him there and we're like 'Oh my God,'" Spaziani said. "We thought he had some talent, but then we look at him and everybody goes 'Wow.' He took to it like a duck to water. That's what he was, the natural. He just went in there and it was like, 'Man.'"

Dudeck said he had a similar moment in his first action.

"The first time I stepped on the field, against Clemson ... I stood there for a second, I was like 'Wow, this is something I've worked so hard for, this is all the times that I've woken up at 5 a.m. before school in high school and done all these crazy workouts with my brothers for. All that is really starting to amount to something,'" he said.

The unlikely contributor has made his presence felt quickly, carrying the ball eight times for 16 yards and catching 14 passes out of the backfield for 78 yards in his first four games.

"It was kind of surprising that he just came up really fast, but I could see his potential and a lot of the guys knew what he could do," Rettig said. "So obviously his name got called and he stepped up. And now he's in the rotation and he's doing well."

Amidon thinks he knows what the coaches observed in Dudeck.

"Dudeck is, he's a real hard worker," Amidon said. "He sees like me and [Johnathan] Coleman do stuff, he's always trying to get in with us. We go to the pool after practice or something he'll be like, 'Yeah, I'm coming, I'm coming.' He's got a great attitude.

"He's a really good athlete. I think that's what the coaches saw. Every day after practice he's running routes with one of the quarterbacks, he's working on his hands, he's doing a bunch of stuff after practice and they saw that. And I think that paid off for him."

It certainly seems like it might pay off for the coaches, too. Especially considering how late in the game they waited to even make him an offer.

On the Friday before signing day, Dudeck went to a store with his best friend, Wendy Laurent, and his younger brother to buy a hat for Laurent to wear on signing day. Laurent was going to Penn State.

Dudeck was weighing his options, including offers to play both baseball and football at either Navy or Yale. He was being recruited as an athlete in football (he'd played quarterback and wide receiver at the Hun School, where he played for his father, David Dudeck II) and as a third baseman, shortstop and center fielder in baseball.

As they left the store, Dudeck got a call. It was the Eagles, coming to their senses.

"Recruiting is not a science, and he was a guy we knew about and we liked and sometimes you get caught up in some other things," Spaziani said of the delay. "A lot of people in his spot would've went, 'Hey, forget about it, I'm going somewhere else.'

"We went, 'Hey, what are we messing around with guys that don't want to come here for?' We like him, we like everything about him, he's highly motivated, and we took him."

Now he's the natural, Roy Hobbs ... even though he still doesn't know exactly who that is. Hey, don't blame him. The Robert Redford film adaptation came out in 1984, and the Bernard Malamud novel was released in 1952. Both are way before the not-yet-19-year-old Dudeck's time.

"It dawned on me that I gotta do some research on this guy," Dudeck said.

Maybe then he'll be able to avoid any more freshman moments when his seniors call him something other than the name on the back of his jersey.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.