Ben Guidugli came to the Bearcats as a Mark Dantonio recruit from Highlands with the difficult task of establishing his own identity at a school where his older brother, Gino was a record-setting quarterback. Ben wasn't as tall as Gino, and he didn't play quarterback.
He could pound weights though and catch a football. Although he made contributions in all of his playing years, he came into his own last season in Brian Kelly's offense, unseating Kazzeem Alli as starter. The fastbreak style fit Guidugli who put his 6-foot, 237-pound frame into the endzone enough to separate himself from just being "Gino's brother".
Now, it's coach #3 for Ben, and another style that should favor #19.
"Coach Jones, he's definitely up-tempo," said Guidugli. "He also stresses toughness at the same time. The tempo is fast as it was before, maybe faster actually and then he stresses toughness. (It's) a little different kind of attitude when we take the field with Coach Jones."
Toughness fits Ben Guidugli. He's got a little "swagger" in him as you may have noticed after a big play. He's done his work in the weight room and he doesn't mind walking around in his Under Armour (or without it) to show you.
However, I've never found him arrogant or impolite. Sure, on the field, he wants to rip your head off, but to me, he's still the shy, little guy I'd see with the rest of his family as I often interviewed his brother on the field at Nippert.
A lot's changed since then. Ben now gets surrounded by microphones and Ben now is a major contributor to a pair of teams that have made history by playing in the Orange and Sugar Bowls. Ben is now a part of what could be the most potent Bearcat offense ever.
But, it's early....
"We're still installing, so everybody's learning." said Guidugli. "Everybody's got to learn to be patient. I'm sure the coaching staff will find the right ways to get guys in position to make plays. Obviously, there's lots of playmakers on offense."
Make no mistake, Ben Guidugli is one of those.
Some speculated that Guidugli might make a position move, both publicly and online. Coach Butch Jones would hear none of it, he wants #19 handling the football.
"I was up for it," said Guidugli grinning. "I asked him when he first got here, 'If the defense needs help I can definitely play linebacker, I feel like I've got the skills. He told me he wanted me on offense.'"
Argument settled. Plus, cameras tend to find the dude with the ball.
"Catching touchdowns and getting first downs is definitely more fun," said Guidugli who would entertain going "both ways, Chuck Bednarik-style".
"I would, I would love to do that," said Guidugli. "Put me in coverage, blitz me. I could definitely do it if he wanted to go that route."
These days, all routes are good for Ben Guidugli. He's shaken the shadow of Gino, whose #8 is honored on the Shank Pavilion portion of Nippert. He's fortunate to come from a talented family as Dave and Sherry have four college football players in the family. Son #2, Jeff, played receiver at Southwestern Louisiana and #4 ,Tony, is a junior college quarterback.
But, I may have found the Guidugli of the future in a pigeon-toed, curly-haired youngster that was hustling after footballs with great zest on this sunny afternoon.
This would be Ben Guidugli...JR!
In terms of "bloodlines", it'll be tough for some to compete in 2027 with a youngster whose father was a Bearcat starting tight end and whose mother was a starting UC point guard (5-7 Carla Jacobs of Jamelle Elliot's squad). Personally, I was shocked that Ben Jr. wasn't given a recruit credential to wear along with the rest of the prospects on hand.
"Man...17 years... I'm sure he'll be getting calls," said a proud Papa Guidugli (the younger one). "Touchdown and football are his favorite words. 15 months old."
I saw it. He couldn't keep his hands off the pigskin. Write it down.
Hopefully, I'll be writing more on the young man in whatever form media comes in by the late 2020s.