Favorite athlete: Tim Tebow
Favorite team: VMI Keydets
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning the District One 6A football championship
Funniest moment competing in sports: All the film sessions with Coach Beck throughout football season.
Music on iPod: Drake
Future plans: Attend Virginia Military Institute and play football while studying Business/Economics
Words to live by: “Trust the Process”
One goal before turning 30: Buy a house.
One thing people don’t know about me: I love to eat buffalo wings.
By Mary Jane Souder
Roll back the calendar to last December.
On a bitterly cold night at Northeast High School, Reece Udinski had just played his final high school football game for North Penn. The senior quarterback threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, all but willing his team to a win over favored Saint Joseph’s Prep.
North Penn’s 35-25 loss in the PIAA 6A state semifinal was the first of what had been a perfect season for Udinski and his Knight teammates, and this one was a heartbreaker. Udinski had shown his mettle on the field with a gutsy performance to keep his team in it, but equally impressive was the way the senior quarterback handled himself when it was over, remaining long after the packed stands had emptied to field questions from the throng of media personnel in attendance.
“At the time, I don’t think anyone really wanted to rehash the game and talk about it,” Udinski said. “But I think at that point I just wanted to step up and say, ‘You know what – I’ll be the guy to address it’ because I played a big role in the game along with the season.
“Just looking at it from a season perspective - not just one play or one game and at least just talk about the team because I think our team really deserved a lot of credit, and I just wanted to give it to them.”
The Knights’ season-ending loss in the state semis captured two markedly different sides of Udinski – a fierce competitor on the gridiron and a reflective young man off it.
The senior quarterback played a starring role in the Knights’ storybook season, setting a single season record for not only his school but the entire District One with 4,093 passing yards. He leaves North Penn with records for career passing yardage (6,493) and touchdowns (61).
“I would say he’s a dream player for you,” North Penn football coach Dick Beck said. “There’s not enough good words to say about him. Not only is he a good player, but he’s a great kid. He really works hard, and he’s not afraid of the spotlight.”
Udinski played and excelled in three sports, compiling an impressive resume.
In addition to leading the football team to SOL Continental Conference and District One 6A titles, he was a key member of the basketball team that captured the conference crown. In the spring, Udinski – despite spending just two years at North Penn - rewrote the record book for the lacrosse team that had its most successful season in memory.
“That’s what makes him so special – he’s like a throwback,” North Penn basketball coach John Conrad said. “He plays football and leads them to an undefeated season. Then he comes out and leads us to the most successful season we’ve had in 15 years. Then after that, he goes out and he leads the lacrosse team to an outstanding season. Not just played but he was a big piece of them all.
“As good of an athlete as he is, he’s an even better kid, if you can believe that. He’s just a quiet soul - always positive, always a positive outlook, picking kids up around him. He’s just a great kid to be around. You’d never know it, but when the lights go on, he’s as fierce as they come.”
North Penn lacrosse coach Rick Smith echoed similar sentiments.
“Reece is very humble,” the Knights’ coach said. “His character is unbelievable. He’s unselfish, and I’ve never met a young man who is willing to do anything to help his team win. That’s just his character. That’s who Reece Udinski is.
“He’s an outstanding student, and most importantly, he makes every single person on his team a better player. He’s mature, and it’s like being blessed with a coach on the field. It’s people like Reece Udinski who make coaching so much fun and so enjoyable.”
Udinski – who transferred from Central Bucks West as a junior - admits his high school career exceeded even his wildest expectations.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I know my parents talk about it now and say, ‘How the heck did this ever happen?’
“It’s almost a dream come true because I really never saw this coming my entire life. I would never have guessed that I would end up here and everything that happened. I’ve just been extremely lucky.”
In an era of specialization, Udinski is a rare breed. He grew up playing four sports – football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse. He stuck with all of them except baseball, giving that up in seventh grade.
The idea of playing multiple sports was perfectly natural to Udinski, who followed in the footsteps of older brothers Ward and Grant. Both had played three sports at Central Bucks West. Ward was the Bucks’ quarterback.
“Whatever season it was, I just wanted to be a part of it,” Udinski said. “There were a lot of times when I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should give up basketball, maybe I should give up lacrosse.’
“I kind of sat down and thought about it, and I could never really picture myself not playing the sport because I know I would regret it so much.”
As a sophomore at CB West, Udinski was a starter at defensive back for the football team, and he was a starter in lacrosse as both a freshman and sophomore. The summer prior to his junior year, Udinski’s family moved to North Wales.
“It was obviously a great change,” he said. “I’d always looked at North Penn as a powerhouse. I was excited to see what it was all about.
“When I got here, the coaches and athletic staff kind of helped me ease into everything instead of feeling overwhelmed about everything because obviously it’s a really big school with athletics that are almost looked at as though they have to be good. I thought maybe I’d give one (sport) up, but when I got to North Penn, it never really changed. I just had to stick with it.”
Interestingly, Udinski’s mind was set on playing collegiate lacrosse, but all that changed after a standout junior football season.
“I decided to go all-in with football,” he said. “My dad and brother helped me out a lot, but really, when I got to North Penn, coach Beck was the one who helped me out tremendously.”
With wide receivers Ricky Johns and Justis Henley as neighbors, Udinski had a chance to develop chemistry with his receivers long before the season began.
“Having the quarterback and two wide receivers – it couldn’t be more perfect,” said Udinski. “Being with some of the guys we had like Ricky Johns, Justis Henley and Jake Hubler – we all became really good friends, and I think putting in the work in the offseason is what helped us in the season.”
Behind the strong arm of Udinski, the Knights reeled off 14 straight wins before falling to the Prep.
“His best attribute as a quarterback is his passion for the game, which includes his attention to detail,” Beck said. “As a passer, he’s extremely accurate throwing the ball. Being 6-4 is great for his vantage point as he’s throwing to be able to see over the line.
“He has the knack for making the big play, for getting a good feel of who’s going to pop open. If you watch him scramble, he’s always looking downfield to make the big throw. He could throw on the run really well and also sit in the pocket. He may not be Michael Vick when it comes to running the ball, but he’s extremely athletic. So moving side to side, making people miss, getting the extra yardage - he was outstanding.”
Udinski also had the ability to keep his emotions in check and was a quiet leader.
“I think growing up he didn’t have a chance to talk too much, so that’s why he doesn’t talk a lot now because his dad does all the talking in that family,” Beck said with a laugh.
And then he continued, “We call him a flatliner. He’s never too up, never too down. His heart rate is always a flat line.
“I think that’s what you need to be at the position of quarterback. You can’t get too down about a bad throw or get too excited about a great throw, and he doesn’t do that.”
Udinski will remember the success story that was his high school team, but that’s just a part of it.
“The bonds that North Penn football makes and the type of connections we have just as players on the team, whether we play or not – we all have each other’s backs,” he said. “We all became best friends, and that will carry on longer than just high school.”
Since the Knights’ football season extended into December, Udinski and Johns were late arrivals on the scene for basketball.
“We never really had any time to practice, and we were kind of just thrown into the games,” Udinski said. “We hadn’t won an outright championship in 15 years, and being able to be part of that was pretty awesome.”
The team’s second leading rebounder, Udinski played mainly at the two or three guard position.
“He played out on the perimeter against the zone, but defensively, we played him all over the place,” Conrad said. “He could do it all for us.
“I think the three-sport athlete is coming back, and at North Penn, he’s one of those kids that’s going to make it popular again. He’s going to show everyone it can be done.”
The ultimate passer in lacrosse as well, Udinski had 33 goals and 77 assists this spring for 110 points, shattering his own single season mark of 82 points set last year. He also broke his own assist record of 43 set last season with 77 while shattering Luke Homan’s career assist record of 56 with 120.
In his final high school game, a 12-11 loss to Haverford in the second round of districts, Udinski had one goal and six assists in a routinely standout performance.
“He’s very, very unselfish,” Smith said. “I’ve been coaching high school lacrosse for a long time, and Reece Udinski is, by far, the utmost unselfish player that I’ve ever coached.
“Whether it’s a freshman or whether it’s a senior who has been playing lacrosse for a long time, he helps everyone, and that’s the bottom line. He literally just makes everyone else around him better. That’s on the field, off the field.
“He has singlehandedly contributed to our program making a turn. It’s a credit to him, it’s a credit to his teammates. Reece is going to do great things in college and great things in life, and it’s because of his attitude.”
Walking away from his final lacrosse season was not easy.
“The season was awesome,” Udinski said. “They hadn’t had a winning season in a very long time, and to have two winning seasons and to make the playoffs both years was pretty special.”
Although he doesn’t have time for many extra curriculars, Udinski is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He will continue his football career at Virginia Military Institute where he plans to major in business/economics. He was a late signee and repeatedly found himself fielding the question of where he would continue his career over the course of his final season.
“I tried to not even focus on it,” Udinski said. “With the season going on and college talk, I just wanted to say, ‘I’m going to put everything about college on the side and worry about it after the season.’ To me, I think it worked out perfectly.”
His coach, for one, thinks a whole lot of colleges missed the boat.
“He was the most under recruited great player we ever had, and I still to this day scratch my head about why all these schools weren’t banging his door down to offer him,” Beck said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.
“I know he’s excited to get down to VMI. I think he’s going to a great place, and I think he’ll have great success down there.”
Udinski, who hopes to play lacrosse as well at VMI, credited his family – including parents Jim and Kerry Udinski – for their role in the success story that was his high school career.
“My dad would be the one catching my passes,” he said. “I remember breaking his finger a couple of times from him just catching footballs for me. And my two brothers were always helping me and supporting me.
“They’ve all just been incredible – from my two brothers to my mom and my dad. It was a crazy four years to say the least. To be at the end of it is bittersweet, and all the success I had – not just myself but all my teams – it reflects on them.”