Kristina, Jenny and Ed Hudak. Photo by Evan Garcia/University of Miami

All in the ’Cane family

By Jenny Hudak

All in the ’Cane family

By Jenny Hudak
Ahead of Family Weekend, University of Miami senior Jenny Hudak interviewed her father, who enrolled in 1979, played football at the U, and has incredible ties to the University and Coral Gables.

In the Coral Gables community, Ed Hudak is known by many titles: Chief of Police, University of Miami alumnus, mentor, and occasionally the “bald guy behind coach”—but to me, he’s just Dad. When the Miami Hurricanes take the field Saturday against the Virginia Tech Hokies, Hudak will be celebrating Family Weekend not just with my family and me, but also with the football program and community he’s called home for the last 40 years.

“Whether it was in the Orange Bowl, or now in the student section across the field, I have always done this with you guys,” Dad said. “The unintended consequence of doing this for so long is that I can share my passions with my family and the University of Miami football team – it really becomes a family thing.”

Since 1988, my dad has served as a volunteer security advisor for the ’Canes football program and, most importantly, a guide and mentor to young athletes at UM.

"I've had a front-row seat to some of the greatest college football plays ever, and that's one part of it. But having a relationship with these kids and knowing the personal issues that they overcame and celebrated — it means a lot. That’s what keeps me grounded," said Dad.

My dad’s definitions of football and family have long been intertwined. My grandfather, Ed Hudak Sr., played football for three national championship teams at the University of Notre Dame. Some would say football is in our blood.

In January 1979, with multiple scholarship offers to play football at universities across the country, my dad had a tough decision to make. He chose the University of Miami, arriving in Coral Gables in August 1979 to play defensive back under football head coach Howard Schnellenberger. Schnellenberger went on to win the U’s first national championship in 1983, a year after my dad was on the roster.

Forty years later, on the eve of Family Weekend, my dad reflected with me on the journey that took him from small town Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he was raised on Notre Dame Court, to the University of Miami where he met my mother and launched his career in law enforcement.

Shortly after graduating in 1983 from UM with a bachelor’s degree in communications, he began working midnight shifts for the University’s police department as part of a program to obtain his master’s degree. Through his time as an officer for UMPD, he developed his love of law enforcement and public service.

Five years later, he joined the Coral Gables Police Department but remained heavily involved with the University’s football program and community, providing security for eight head coaches, beginning with Jimmy Johnson, and also mentoring members of the football team. He has gone on to mentor athletes across every sport.

“Coming in, some of them never even had a conversation with a police officer,” Dad shared with me recently. “That’s really how the whole role started, it just turned into me being around the kids and around the program.”

That mentorship turned into 30 years of accompanying the football team to every home, away, and, yes, national championship game.

Among the young players my dad has been privileged to work with are football greats Ed Reed, Ken Dorsey, and Jon Vilma.

“When I see what they’ve been through, and now they’re fathers and mothers, to see them come back to Miami to see my wife, see my children who’ve grown up in front of them, it’s a blessing,” Dad said. “I’m lucky to have and share the family value system that I was taught when I was 18-years-old.”

He also met my mom, Alina, at the U. She is a double alumna, earning her bachelor's in finance in 1982, and a master's in public administration in 1984. The two share a love and passion for public service, football, and family that they have passed down to my sister and me. My sister, Kristina, graduated from UM in May 2019 with a degree in sport administration. Her aspirations, unsurprisingly, are to one day work in the National Football League.

My dad’s role in this community has woven its way into our lives in every aspect. Our childhood memories are peppered with football games and players who remain part of our family to this day. When the time came to decide where we would be attending college, most people assumed it was an easy decision – The U. While my sister dreamt of being a ’Cane through-and-through, I decided to apply to and enroll at a university in the northeast. Less than one year later, there was no debate—I had to return to the Coral Gables community I called home. I guess one winter was all it took for me to realize why my dad never returned to Pennsylvania.

Beyond the field, Dad serves as the Chief of Police of the City of Coral Gables, demonstrating his love of public service and the community. He returned to UM and obtained his master of arts in liberal sciences in 2010. In his spare time, he participates with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in a program known as Brothers in Blue and as an alumni chapter advisor for the University of Miami's Pi Kappa Alpha. He remains heavily involved in his role as an advisor for the athletics department and university that gave him not only a career — but a family.

This weekend, with my family and me in the stands, and the players on the field, my dad will be reminded of why he planted himself in South Florida so long ago.

“The beautiful thing about Coral Gables and the University of Miami isn’t so much it’s tree canopy, but its root system,” he said. “The root system in Coral Gables reaches up and grabs you. I got here when I was just 18 years old and it was all about football, that was it. Now, to see my children, to see you, growing up in this community, it's so much more than just football."