The No. 64 runs in the family.
So does Crusader football.
Braedon Hart is a senior offensive lineman on the Father Judge High School football team, and he proudly wears the No. 64 while snapping the ball to start the offense.
It’s the same number his dad, Tim, wore when he played for the Crusaders. And it’s pure coincidence that it’s the same number his mother’s father, Mike Dufner, wore when he played at Judge.
Same number, same love of the game. Same grittiness when playing the game.
“When my dad wore the number, it just happened that they were the same number,” said Hart, who lives in Winchester. “So when I got here, I really wanted that number and I was able to get it. It means a lot to me because I look up to both of them. I love wearing it.”
He’s living up to their legacy quite well.
Both his grandfather and dad are members of the Father Judge Football Hall of Fame. His dad is on the coaching staff helping out with the offensive line. His younger brother, Seamus, is a sophomore wide receiver and defensive back. And mom is a football mom who helps out with the program any way she can.
But this year, Hart will be the big man on campus in hopes of helping the Crusaders battle for a top spot in the Catholic League.
It won’t be easy because they play the top teams in the state, but Hart is ready to carry the team to good things.
Last year Judge didn’t play during the fall, but did participate in spring football, and finished a respectable 4-2. Hart had fun, as he always does while playing football, but he looked at it more as a dress rehearsal for his senior year. And his team needed it since it was an extremely young squad, especially along the offensive line.
But the good news is every grunt who blocked last year will return, but with experience. He believes the cohesiveness of the unit could make a huge difference.
“Last year we had three kids my year and two freshmen starting,” Hart said. “We were young, but everyone is back and working really hard, so it’s good. We got better last year. It’s hard coming out as a freshman and starting.”
Last year rookies got an edge Hart didn’t get the luxury of when he was a sophomore. Playing teams like Truman, West Catholic and Cheltenham isn’t easy, but it’s a world different than lining up against St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle and Archbishop Wood.
That’s what Hart was faced with when he became a starter on the offensive line as a sophomore. He held his own, but it didn’t take him long to realize playing in the Catholic League Red Division is a whole different world.
“It was a big transition for me because when I got there, I was undersized and I never played varsity before, so it was hard,” said Hart, who now stands 6 feet 1 and weighs 260 pounds. “The seniors took me under their wing and helped me a lot. I needed their help because everyone is bigger, stronger, better and faster.
“The biggest thing they taught me is you have to play with toughness and determination in the Catholic League. It’s a huge transition from grade school and freshmen football. I had great teammates who helped me, and that’s why I made sure to help the freshmen last year because I know how much I appreciated the help and how much I got from it. It was a great learning experience for me.”
Last year was a great year for improvement for him, even if it was a very hectic season.
On top of playing football, he’s a defender on the Crusaders lacrosse team, so he had to shuffle between the two sports. For a big guy, that’s not always easy.
“It was hard, but playing lacrosse helps me a lot because it’s a lot of running,” Hart said. “It was fun playing both, but it will be good to play one. It was a lot of going from one to another, every day, so it was hard.”
Even harder when you consider how hard Hart works in the classroom.
On top of being a two-sport athlete, Hart is ranked ninth in his class and is a member of the National Honor Society. He hopes to use both his brains and brawn next year when he graduates.
“I know I want to play football in college, but I’m not sure what I want to do as far as a major,” Hart said. “Maybe something like pharmacy or something like being a chiropractor. I’m not too sure. I do well in science and like that.
“It’s not too hard, but sometimes it gets to be a lot. The most important thing is studying, but the teachers at Judge are great. If ever I don’t know something or I need something explained to me, they’re great about that. The school is great.”
But there is one aspect he definitely knows he needs improvement in.
Last year, there were no fans allowed at games, but crowds gathered outside Ramp Playground to watch the team play. After victories, the team saluted their fans by singing the school’s fight song. But they didn’t always know the words and sometimes didn’t sound like a boy band. This year, he wants them to have that perfect pitch after victories.
“We’re going to be better,” he said. “I’m not a great singer, but we got the words down, even the younger guys. We hope to sing it a lot.”