Ex-Michigan QB Jake Rudock is the NFL draft's renaissance man

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The camera light turned red. No lights, one camera, action. Middle-school aged Jake Rudock took this seriously now. There's intensity there, a self-induced demand to get everything right even though he's not yet a teenager and this was a very amateur production.

He didn't want to screw up; have to re-do it with his teenaged director, Michelle Kinne, holding the camera. Kinne is four years older than Rudock, but the two are connected by families and film. Kinne, carrying a DV camera everywhere they went, has a passion for filmmaking. Rudock has one for watching and performing.

Kinne came up with makeshift scripts and titles. Rudock ended up the lead in most of them, kids playing Hollywood. They were middle-school films with minimal costuming. Scene-placement needed the imagination of the beholder. They held screenings for their parents complete with popcorn and questionnaires.

"He was always down [to do it]," Kinne said. "That's what I remember. He was like, 'I think your movies are great. I want to be in them.' I appreciated the enthusiasm, that's for sure."

It lit one of the three passions in the life of Jake Rudock, former Iowa and Michigan quarterback and current NFL hopeful: Football. Medicine. Movies.

Act I: A Quarterback's Life


What Would Tom Do, as in former Michigan quarterback and current NFL star Tom Brady. "WWTD" and "Be Like Tom" were the mantras for Rudock and the Michigan quarterbacks in 2015. Using Brady as an example is not new for Michigan offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who came from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He did it in the NFL with Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler, too.

"When you're teaching a young quarterback how to prepare and you're asking yourselves on a Monday night what would I do, ask yourself, what would Tom do," Fisch said. "What would Peyton [Manning] do? Would they go out or study the film? Would they come in at 9 a.m. or 7 a.m.?"

Like Brady in 2000, Rudock is not expected to be a high draft pick. He likely won't go until the third day of the draft, if he ends up drafted at all. But he likely will wear an NFL jersey somewhere this spring in part because of the tutelage he had over his college career at Iowa and Michigan and his intelligence as a pro-style quarterback.

"I can't promise he'll be drafted," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "But he's certainly in the mix to go in the sixth or seventh round and is definitely the kind of free agent who can stick on a roster if he's not drafted.

"I think there's a little bit of Greg McElroy or Brian Hoyer there, where he lacks high-level traits but can certainly make a team and how he develops from there -- you never know."

Rudock just wants a chance -- and the teaching he received should help that. He's not thought of as overly athletic, although he has athleticism. He wasn't invited to the combine, but his experience in the pro-style offenses should help.

The NFL experience of head coach Jim Harbaugh and Fisch attracted Rudock to Michigan after Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told him after the 2014 season that C.J. Beathard would be Iowa's starter in 2015.

Rudock transferred instead of playing backup. Michigan was the obvious option once waivers allowed him to move within the Big Ten. Harbaugh offered the chance to compete for a job.

"They wanted to go a different direction at quarterback and I wanted a fair shot to compete for a job and coach Harbaugh came in and said, 'Yeah, we'd love to have you and love to have you come compete,' " Rudock said. "That was the biggest thing. I could come in and try to play and the best thing was, coach never said you are starting.

"We had four other guys, go jump in there."

He did -- and quickly took hold of the job. It started when he arrived over the summer. Coaches couldn't work with them, so he ingratiated himself with his new teammates on his own. To do so, he used quick comedic timing, intensity in preparation and memos of inspirational messages occasionally given to him by his father, Bob, who is a baseball coach at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. He even took a job at Schembechler Hall, Michigan's football facility, to help earn his teammates' trust. Rudock then performed well enough to beat out Shane Morris and Wilton Speight.

Michigan gave Rudock a chance to start on a master's degree in kinesiology off the field and a doctorate in quarterbacking on it. He'd learn from Harbaugh and Fisch, coaches who prepared NFL quarterbacks weekly in San Francisco and Jacksonville.

Rudock ran an NFL offense at Michigan. Fisch used film of quarterbacks from Brady to Bortles, Colin Kaepernick to Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford to Peyton Manning to help Rudock with play installation and what footwork should look like. If Fisch installed a play from the Patriots, he showed film of Brady illustrating it. It sold plays to Rudock -- and future recruits -- but doubled as a way for Rudock to study NFL film, to understand how NFL teams changed coverages and disguised defenses.

That pro film work and coaching propelled Rudock to a successful season at Michigan. He completed 249 of 389 passes for 3,017 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He often took three plays to the huddle and audibled from one play to another based on one word. He learned the complicated terminology of an NFL-based offense - something most colleges don't have. He understood the nuance and importance of reading a play slowly and in a rhythmic cadence so there are no misunderstandings and no need to read it twice because time is, well, everything.

This experience should benefit him as he transitions from college starter to potential NFL backup easier than if he came from the spread.

"He can pick up a system really quickly. He's very, very sharp," said Brady Quinn, the former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback who was Rudock's quarterback coach at the East-West Shrine Game. "Of the three guys I had, who were all very bright, he was ahead of the rest. So I think when you put all that together and you look at his background, he had success at Iowa. He had success at Michigan.

"That showed to me that it doesn't matter the system, he's going to have success. He can go in right away and be productive. He does all those things well. He can make all the throws. He doesn't have the biggest arm, but I think he definitely has enough arm and can do all those things."

Rudock wants to be drafted in April. If not, he believes his skill and background should be enough to land him on a NFL roster soon after with a shot to make a team. He has good enough size at 6-foot-3. He has good enough arm strength. He has the pedigree of two NFL minds tutoring him.

And it fits with the message Fisch delivered: "WWTD."

"Now what, that's what I tell him. What are you going to do," Fisch said. "What makes Tom Brady, Tom Brady? What makes Tony Romo, Tony Romo? It's not what makes Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck. A lot of things. He was drafted number one overall.

"What makes those guys? What makes those types of players? The Romos, Bradys, Marc Bulgers? What made those guys who they are? What separated them? Do that."

Act II: A Doctor's Life

Rudock doesn't want this to happen for a while yet, but once football ends, he already knows what's next: He wants to be a doctor. He's known that ever since he took an athletic training class in high school.

His mother, Kathy, asked him consistently what he wanted to do after athletics, and by the time he was applying to colleges, Rudock told his mom he wanted to become a doctor.

It's something that runs in his family. His older brother, Bobby, works in pediatric neurology at Washington University in St. Louis and is Rudock's biggest influence, along with their parents. Rudock said he thinks and functions similar to his older brother, which is why his opinion might carry so much weight. Bobby is the person Rudock went to in order to discuss his initial college decision. He's the one who helped advise him when he first expressed interest in medicine. He steered him away from caring for adults to focus on children.

"The med school thing, that's a real, live, that-will-happen thing," Rudock's father, Bob, said. "But hopefully it doesn't happen for a long, long time. It will happen and he has every intention of fulfilling his master's program and getting that done."

Rudock had a plan for it even before the NFL became an option. Whenever he's done with football, he will take a year off and likely finish his master's. He'll take the MCAT and start the application process on his journey to help children. He doesn't know what he would like to specialize in within pediatrics, but working with kids is the direction he wants to go.

There's something about kids for Rudock that makes trying to heal them special. It has to do with how kids react when they are being given diagnoses and also the joy he can bring to children and their parents when he heals them.

"This kid has a debilitating disease or has cancer unfortunately, they are not thinking about the cancer," Rudock said. "They are thinking, 'Hey, I want to go play with my toy truck. Can I go play right now? Can I go hang out with my friends?' "... That's not every case, unfortunately, but that's an overwhelming [number of] cases that I've just come across. Kids are so resilient in that regard."

It's that resiliency that sticks out the most to Rudock when it comes to his post-football profession.

Act III: An Actor's Life?

Football has been a certainty. Med school will be once football is over. Acting is nowhere close to a sure thing. It's a long shot. But Rudock has been reading play scripts for years. He wouldn't mind reading screenplays one day as well.

Movies always enthralled Rudock. He took an acting class at Iowa, had a non-speaking role in a high school production and there are, of course, those amateur middle-school movies.

"I always told him, hey, you can be an actor because I thought he had natural talent," said Kinne, who works in entertainment on a freelance basis now. "It was very clear when we made the movies I would cast him as the lead because he was a natural at it. He did really well."

Kinne said she turned to her family while they were in the stands during Rudock's final game against Florida at the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and joked with them that she still believed he'd be a good actor if he chose that path.

The childhood films and family movie nights spurred his lifelong love of movies. His film knowledge is immense. Rudock insists he can "quote damn near any movie," and can dissect a Christopher Nolan flick with the knowledge of a film veteran. At Michigan's national signing day event in February, he was bummed Owen Wilson only appeared by video because "who doesn't want to meet Hansel? Are you serious?" He regretted never meeting Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis when they came to Iowa for football and basketball games.

The tall, thin, sandy-haired Rudock doesn't think he could do Broadway. He believes he'd be better doing film and working in comedies -- he has a dry wit -- versus dramas. There are many football/acting precedents: Ed O'Neill, Joel McHale, Dean Cain and James Caan to name a few.

There's also a physician/actor connection -- Ken Jeong. Jeong went to medical school and was a practicing physician before becoming a well-known actor, with scene-stealing roles in the television show "Community" and the movie "The Hangover."

"I'd love to be [an actor], if that as a career path, lead me that way," Rudock said. "Once I'm done playing football, when I am completely done playing football, be Ken Jeong. Like yes, I would love it. Love that."

But football is the present. Medicine is the at-some-point future. Acting? That's the unknown. Aside from money, they all have another similar thread for Rudock. They bring relief and joy. Through him, others can try and feel better about themselves. And that, to him, is important.

"I love trying to help people. That's something I find a lot of joy in," Rudock said. "Wanting to be a doctor, wanting to play football, wanting to be in movies, just bring joy to people somehow. I just found that helping people is very important.

"You always think about your legacy and what you leave behind, I think you want to change people's lives at the end of the day."