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Former linebacker Kissee now playing on line of scrimmage on both sides of ball

Growing up in Sparta, Hudson Kissee passed time by riding dirt bikes with current Trojans basketball standout Jake Lafferty, in addition to shooting hoops himself and playing youth football in junior high.

Upon transferring to Ozark at the start of his freshman year, Kissee was open-minded about his move. 

"There are more opportunities at Ozark athletically and academically," he said.

Changing schools also led to an immediate change of positions on the gridiron for Kissee. He had experience as a middle linebacker and outside linebacker, but has never played at either spot as a Tigers.

"I went to try out for linebacker and they said, 'Nope, no room, go see coach (Michael) Cox on the O-line,'" Kissee said, recalling his first few Ozark practices as a freshman. "I wasn't open to it at first because I had never played it before."

Dejected but not deterred, Kissee spent his freshman and sophomore seasons learning all the nuances of blocking along the offensive line. He responded well enough to earn a starting job at right tackle as a junior a year ago.

Even at 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, Kissee held his own.

"Being a new under-sized lineman, it was pretty scary at first I'll admit," he said. "But once I got a little confidence, I started doing a little better."

Kissee's highlight came opposite Carthage linebacker Luke Gall, of all people. Gall, of course, was the COC co-Defensive Player Of The Year, COC Offensive Player Of The Year and Class 5 Offensive Player Of The year last season. He's now an Air Force commit.

"I won a couple (matchups) against him last year by being lower, faster and meaner than him," Kissee said. "That made me feel good because I remember my brother (Harper) was telling me two years ago he couldn't block (Gall) sometimes."

Coach Chad Depee values Kissee's presence along an Ozark offensive line that could be made up of all seniors.

"He's undersized but has a really good motor and is a good athlete. He's a perfect tackle for us," Depee said. "He'll have a tremendous year. He's tough. He'll fight for us."

Kissee also is a strong contender to see plenty of time at defensive end this season.

"Last year I didn't play defense at all, so I'm trying to get the hang of things on the defensive side," Kissee said. "Being a linebacker for three years, I know how to tackle. But being a D-lineman, it's a little different. I'm learning."

If Kissee starts on defense, he will join a small group of linemen to start on both sides of the ball in Depee's seven seasons at Ozark. Payton Greer is also likely to be a two-way starter at center and nose guard this season.

"We're going to need his skills on the defensive side," Depee said of Kissee. "Flipping over to the defensive line, he can run and has good levels. We're going to rely on him being an athlete and get a lot of reps."

Kissee and Greer are both multi-sport athletes. Like Greer, Kissee points to his mat time in wrestling as a prime reason his conditioning will hold up while playing both ways. 

"During the summer, we had all our workouts and I feel wrestling gets me in shape and then there was baseball over the summer," he said. "Staying active has me feeling good about my conditioning.