JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — In 1994, Derek Fudge came to Johnson City to play football for ETSU. After his pro career ended, his passion has been training athletes to be successful in sports and in life.
Once eager to attend Florida State University, Fudge said, “God had another plan. So, he brought me to the mountains of East Tennessee. And from thenceforth, I loved it.”
When he wasn’t furthering his own football career playing in the New Orleans Saints system, Fudge was helping others.
“Kids kept calling me,” he said. “‘Fudge, come to East Tennessee and train me. We’re not doing anything.'”
With his training knowledge and going through the rigors of athletics, Fudge started a new chapter: training the next generation at Fudge Fitness. Fudge trains athletes within a three-hour radius, starting as young as age 5. The only thing he expects from kids is hard work and maximum effort.
“My motto is ‘train insane, or stay the same,'” he said. “So, basically I tell them, ‘I don’t want you average here'”.
And that motto, along with high expectations, has led many of his athletes to get noticed by colleges and universities. The walls in Fudge’s office are covered with newspaper clippings and photos of the athletes he has trained.
“That’s what gets me up every morning, he said. “Just that ‘thank you,’ just that ‘will you come to my signing,’ ‘will you come to my game and we’ll take a picture together so I can post it on my phone on social media.’ That means a lot to me. That’s all I need.”
And, it’s not just physical ability. Fudge also expects his athletes to win at life. He trains athletes to be good members of the community and he says it starts with respect.
“If you cannot respect parents at home, you will have trouble respecting coaches in the field. Family is what I talk about when I do my guest speakings. If you don’t respect mom or dad, it will be hard to respect the coaches in the field,” Fudge said. “So, we talk about respect, even for teachers. If you can’t respect home, the classroom, any sport will be tough for you.”