Some moments leave a weight on the soul that can forever anchor it to that point in time. The future defies comprehending. Possibilities vanish. The life planned becomes moot.
Imagine a nine-year-old boy in this very situation and you have the story of Benton Panther senior Peyton Hudgins.
Christopher Peyton Hudgins was born October 24, 2001. In 2011, a series of events left him and his sister, Jessica, facing a future without their parents, Chris and Christina Hudgens.
Shane and Lara Pigue had known the Hudgins family well. Shane and Chris coached together. The Pigue’s son, Thomas was born just months before Peyton. The two boys were good friends and shared another common bond.
Their fathers both had cancer. Chris was diagnosed with cancer for a second time, beginning treatment in 2010. Shane had been fighting his own battle the same year. Shane’s treatment was successful. Chris was not as fortunate.
On January 16, 2011, Chris died.
“I’ll never forget that day”, says Lara Pigue. “Peyton had been spending the weekend with us. Christina called us early that morning to let us know that Chris had passed away and asked us not to let Peyton know yet.” The boys were set to play in a basketball tournament in Hot Springs. “The boys went on to win the tournament and Coach Clint Hilson gave us the huge team trophy to take home. There was not a dry eye in the gym. I’ll never forget his dad’s funeral; Peyton fell apart and was carried out of the church. It was too much for him to process at nine years old.”
There was barely time to breathe before tragedy visited nine-year-old Peyton and his sister Jessica for a second time.
In late February 2011, Christina asked to speak with the Pigue’s. “Christina told us that if anything were to happen to her, she wanted us to raise their children and be their godparents.”, recounts Lara.
Almost 6 weeks later, on May 1, Christina died in her sleep.
She had suffered a major heart attack. “She was a beautiful person inside and out and loved her children so very much.” says Lara. “I’ll never forget receiving the phone call. It just felt like the worst nightmare had come true and I couldn’t believe what was happening to these two precious kids.”
On May 3, Shane and Lara were granted guardianship of Peyton and Jessica. Later, Jessica asked to live with a relative. Guardianship was transferred. The same option was given to Peyton. He chose to stay.
In October of 2011, Peyton’s maternal grandmother Debbie Wilson died.
So much loss on the shoulders of a little boy. He didn’t have to bear the load alone. The Pigue’s were there every step of the way.
Life settled into a familiar rhythm of school, studies, football and baseball.
As quarterback, Peyton led his eighth-grade team to an undefeated season. In the ninth-grade, he passed for 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 584 yards and twelve touchdowns.
He looked forward to high school football, but adversity reared its familiar head.
Panthers Head Coach Brad Harris describes what happened during the . “Peyton’s injury preseason scrimmage game. “He was running with the ball and was tackled from behind, the tackler fell on him when they hit the ground and it broke his left collarbone.”
Peyton worked hard at rehabilitation and returned to the lineup in six weeks. Three weeks later, a concussion ended his season. Harris remembers Peyton’s disappointment, “but he never quit trying to get on the field.”
Injury struck again before his junior season. Coach Harris recalls, “During our Maroon & Gray Scrimmage, Peyton was again tackled and landed on the same collarbone and again broke it, just in a different spot. This time doctors advised Peyton to sit out the entire 2018 season.”
And so Peyton watched. And trained. And prepared for 2019.
Reflecting on his, he remains amazingly optimistic…and humble.
“I just hope people get the message about how much these two (Shane and Lara) impacted me in the little time that they have had. I couldn’t have done anything or even had the opportunity to tell the world how amazing my parents are. I love both of them so much and I know I don’t speak about my emotions or open up much, but just know I’m so thankful for this family.”
To Lara, Peyton says, “I 100 percent want to get this out there, and do the best I can to prove to everyone that I wouldn’t be who I am without the help of you and Shane after such a tragic event. Once again, thank you.”
Regarding his injuries, Peyton explains, “I let those setbacks fuel me to come back and be even better. Sure, I was disappointed, but I always knew I would be back.”
He continues, “It has not been easy to lose the two people (Chris and Christina) you love the very most in the whole world for sure. But the way they loved me and worked hard for me–well, that inspires me every day to work hard and do my very best. My faith has helped me as well, knowing that someday I’ll see them again. I just want to make them proud.”