Football was merely the starting point
Former Buckeye standout defensive end Mike Kudla followed the lessons he learned on the field to the executive suite.
Following the motto "a Buckeye for life," it is easy to see the passion that flows through my veins for The Ohio State University. As a 2002 National Champion, a two-time Big Ten Champion and 2005 first-team All-Big Ten Defensive End, I hold the record for most sacks in a Fiesta Bowl (3 in 2006 against Notre Dame) and graduated as Ohio State’s Strongest Man (610 pounds bench-press, 750 pounds squat, 430 pounds hang clean). Those records were set seven months after I had surgery to rebuild my shoulder, which currently has eight screws in there with Block O’s on them, so Ohio State is physically part of me.
Simply put, I love being a Buckeye.
Becoming a Buckeye was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. It provided me with an amazing education and four unforgettable seasons in the Horseshoe. All of those experiences paved the way for me to transition from Ohio State to the NFL to becoming an entrepreneur. As a principal and chief operating officer for Hplex Solutions, a healthcare real estate development firm, it is my duty to make sure that over $400 million in projects nationally are running efficiently. Every morning I am still fueled with the same mindset that success is often the result of refusing to give up and striving to reach your goals.
My experiences as an Ohio State student-athlete go far beyond the X’s and O’s of the gridiron, as they helped to establish the foundation of the person I am today. I came to Ohio State with strong core values that were instilled in me from my parents like discipline, integrity and a determined work ethic. These qualities were only amplified as I was mentored by Coach Jim Tressel, Mark Dantonio and Jim Heacock at Ohio State. Coach Tressel’s Winners Manual is something that I often refer to as the lessons taught in the film room transcended the game of football. Words like humility, adversity, responsibility and teamwork are all things that I utilize in my everyday life. Dantonio and Heacock played pivotal roles in pushing me to maximize my potential, both as an athlete and as a person, and to use my athleticism to make plays when the “Silver Bullet” defense needed it most.
As I reflect on how I transitioned from Ohio State to a successful career in the business world, I discovered that many of the traits all tied back to my time as a Buckeye. One of the key elements that I found was that to grow and achieve your goals in life you have to fall in love with the process of what it takes to become the best. It is not a once-in-a-while thing; it is an all-the-time thing. It is the waking up early, staying late and pushing through all the obstacles that present themselves. All of these things will test you to see if you really wanted to reach your goals — or if they were simply just a thought.
The lessons I learned on the football field — from my coaches and teammates at Ohio State to my time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bill Cowher — have all fueled my competitive drive to continue to push myself to get better each and every day. I apply the same discipline and passion that made me successful as an athlete into my business career.
My business mentor, Denny Freudeman, founder and president of Hplex Solutions and a former student-athlete at Capital University, is someone who has played a vital role in my journey. When I first met Denny, it was evident that our core values and work ethics were aligned, just like my coaches, but the thing I enjoy most about being around him is his genuine passion and care for our clients and employees. Denny is a phenomenal teacher and he built Hplex Solutions on the foundation of integrity and the value of authentic relationships. Our goal is not only to grow Hplex but to grow the relationships with our current and future clients. We want them to experience the Hplex difference and feel the genuine goal of forming a long-lasting partnership — just like the relationship I have with The Ohio State University, a Buckeye for life!