FRISCO, Texas — A year ago, Hudson Card was coming off an impressive sophomore season for Lake Travis during which he recorded 69 catches for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns as a wide receiver. In the state championship game, he replaced Ohio State-bound quarterback Matthew Baldwin against Allen, but threw three interceptions trying to target star wide receiver Garrett Wilson
Set to take over as the Cavaliers quarterback replacing and carrying on a long tradition of incredible success at the position, Card entered the critical spring evaluation period in 2018 with the task of convincing college coaches that he could fulfill his potential as a junior.
Of course, he already had plenty of opportunities — TCU offered in December of 2017, as did Arkansas. In January, Northwestern and Indiana entered the picture. In February, it was Oklahoma State, then Utah early in March.
The spring evaluation period produced offers from Auburn and Baylor before Card picked up a Texas offer while on a visit for the Orange-White game. Days later, offensive coordinator Tim Beck and wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer visited him at Lake Travis.
Ohio State, Alabama, Ole Miss, Michigan, Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon, Texas A&M, and Penn State all offered before Card decided to shut down his recruitment for good by committing to Texas on May 25.
“It’s been my dream school my whole life, so that was a big reason,” Card told the Austin American-Statesman days later. “I might as well focus on high school and winning a state championship since I knew where I wanted to end up. It feels good to get it out of the way and off my chest.”
At that point, it was all about rewarding the trust that the Texas staff placed in him — quarterbacks typically commit earlier than players at other positions and represent the most important evaluations for a staff in any given class.
When Wilson spoke with Burnt Orange Nation about Card last July, he had plenty of confidence in his teammate.
“He’s a freak athlete. He showed that last year and he’s got a really good arm, too. He’s the type of dude that’s got Heisman potential,” Wilson said of Card. “He can extend plays, put it anywhere, hit passes on the run, or run for a 50-yard touchdown. He’s really that dude and we’re going to have a great year with him.”
Wilson didn’t miss the mark with that prediction, as Card led Lake Travis to the state semifinals before running into the buzzsaw also known as Galena Park North Shore. On the season, Card complete 250-of-369 passes for 3,543 yards and 50 touchdowns, along with only four interceptions. On the ground, he accounted for 619 yards and nine touchdowns.
Let’s consider those passing numbers further — Card completed 67.8 percent of his passes at 9.6 yards per attempt and an interception rate of 1.1 percent. He threw a touchdown every 7.4 attempts.
Even for the outsized numbers that spread offenses produce around Texas high school football, those are truly remarkable numbers for Card, especially placed within the context of his first varsity season.
As Wilson predicted, Card extended plays, showing a comfort level escaping left, clearing his shoulders, and delivering strikes on the run. He was able to hit small windows when targeting Wilson on passes like red-zone fades or other wide receivers up the seam against good coverage. When he needed to flash his arm strength, he was able to get out over his front foot to deliver balls with velocity.
He made some remarkable cuts that showed off his change-of-direction ability that helped him run a 4.28 shuttle at a regional camp for the The Opening to produce big plays on the ground.
Currently listed at 6’2.5 and 179 pounds, the biggest question for Card is how much weight he can gain in college — he has the thinnest frame of any Texas quarterback taken since Case McCoy. And he’s quick in short areas rather than fast over long distances, as he ran a 4.79 40-yard dash in testing and doesn’t project as a breakaway threat in college.
Still, despite whatever concerns exist about Card and whatever improvements he can make as a senior, his production validated the evaluation by Herman and his staff. The rankings followed suit, as Card has jumped 108 spots since he was first ranked in March of last year and is now at No. 59 nationally in the 247Sports Composite.
With his performance at Elite 11 and The Opening Finals this week, Card has solidified himself as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, slotting behind USC commit Bryce Young, who doesn’t use his high-level athleticism nearly as much as Card. According to the evaluations of the Elite 11 staff, however, Card out-performed Young this week in a setting more favorable to Young than Card.
Burnt Orange Nation’s Joe Hamilton detailed Card’s exceptional Elite 11 showing:
Card displayed his ability to make those next-level throws and stand out among some of the best gunslingers in the country. The Lake Travis signal caller had poise and enough patience to go through his progressions to make the right reads and necessary passes to put his team in position to win during the 7v7 portion of The Opening/Elite 11 competition. When it comes to athletic ability, that’s never been a shortcoming as far as his game goes; if Card wanted to compete as a wide receiver, he’d be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. How effective will he be as a passer at the collegiate level? Although there was no legitimate pressure in Card’s face, he was still forced to get rid of the ball within a four second time limit before the play was called a sack. He got the ball out quickly and efficiently for the most part. Card was also outstanding in anticipating throws, looking off safeties and linebackers to allow some of his wideouts to get open and connected with them time after time. The touch on a great deal of throws and precise ball placement on deep balls and on the boundary is where we got see Card at his best. When he wasn’t throwing passes, Card took a lot of time out to soak up some knowledge from many of the coaches that were on hand. He showed good leadership qualities and that he was truly a team player. He also went down to congratulate his team’s quarterbacks and receivers every time they scored when he wasn’t in the game. Card definitely lived up to his rankings and gave Horns fans something to look forward to in the future.
“It’s been awesome just competing with the best guys in the country, just to see where you’re at and everything like that, it’s really cool,” Card told Hamilton. “And just the friendships you make from it and the overall experience is awesome.”
With current Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger serving as a camp counselor for the event, Card had an opportunity to soak up some knowledge from the Longhorns standout.
“He’s awesome. We’re cool,” Card said. “He gave me little tips here and there throughout the week and stuff. Just throwing with him was pretty cool.”
The Longhorns currently have two young quarterbacks on campus in Casey Thompson and Roschon Johnson, as well as the commitment of Duncanville standout Ja’Quinden Jackson, but Card doesn’t sound worried about the numbers in that room.
He said that he plans on coming in and controlling what he can control, which includes focusing on preparation and improvement instead of the potential for playing time or where he fits on the depth chart.
As he heads into his final season of high school football, he’s working on gaining weight, making that his main focus, as well as achieving a full mastery of Stein’s offense, a similar scheme to what Herman and Beck run in Austin — Stein spent a season under Herman as a quality control coach working with the quarterbacks in 2017 before making the move west.
Card doesn’t have anything more to prove to evaluators or the coaching staff, but after coming close to winning a state title in each of the last two seasons, his primary goal on the field this fall is to bring another championship back to Lake Travis.
“I know we can do it, so it’s just a matter of how badly we want it, so it’s about going in there and trying to win it,” he said.