Khaleke Hudson’s life changed forever in 2013.
At about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 22 of that year, Hudson and his family received a call informing them that Khaleke's father, Carlos Hudson Sr., had been found dead in a silver Toyota Corolla alongside a cousin, Jana Randolph, with multiple gunshot wounds in the head.
The loss, of course, was devastating to Hudson and his family. He described his father as "the glue" in an article by The Athletic's Austin Meek in 2019. Carlos Hudson had been the person who helped him and his brother, Carlos Jr., get interested in football, cheering them on from the sidelines and occasionally coaching them up.
As someone who has firsthand experience in how life-altering gun violence can be, he wants to do whatever he can to help the problem.
"It's something that has been in my life a lot growing up," Hudson said. "I have a lot of friends, family who lost their life from gun violence, innocent family and friends."
As part of the NFL's annual "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative, Hudson has chosen to support the Everytown Community Safety Fund, which raises money for grants, advocacy campaigns and more to help reduce gun violence, during the Washington Commanders' Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. Fans looking to purchase the cleats can go to the auction page of the Commanders' website.
Founded in 2018, the Everytown Community Safety Fund supplies grantees with "quarterly peer networking calls, convenings, capacity-building training and consultation with Everytown staff," according to the organization's website. Since 2019, Everytown for Gun Safety has supplied $10 million in grants to 117 community-based violence intervention programs.
Everytown's first grant, which launched in 2019, was an investment of $1.1 million to 11 community-based gun violence intervention groups across the country. This year, the Everytown Community Safety Fund has become the largest ground program dedicated specifically to supporting community-based violence intervention efforts in the United States.
"So, it really hits home for me," Hudson said. "It's a sensitive spot for me and it's something that I really care about, ending gun violence and bringing peace to the world."
Carlos Sr. was a constant in Hudson's life, particularly as he and his brothers began their playing careers. He was their biggest supporter, cheering them on from the sidelines and pushing them to make sure they were always working to improve. He helped them do extra workouts after peewee football practices, and in the mornings, he drove them to McKeesport High School to run stadium steps.
Those moments with his father, when he and his brothers first began their dreams of playing in the NFL, are some of his most cherished memories.
"I still use the things that he taught me a long time ago...in my everyday life, so, yeah," he said. "As far as going hard every day, being there for my family, you know, being an alpha male of my family, always making sure everybody's okay."
After Carlos Sr.'s murder, football remained a constant in the lives of Hudson and his brothers as well as a way to stay connected with their dad. The day after the shooting occurred, Hudson and his brothers participated in a varsity scrimmage. It became a channel for Hudson to focus and express the anger and pain he felt.
To this day, Hudson still thinks about his father whenever he steps on a football field.
"Every day I'm in the building and on the field, I try to just dedicate it to him," Hudson said. "Because I know he's seen this vision for me before I even noticed there was a vision."
There are still many unanswered questions about Carlos Sr.'s death, and while the pain has dulled over the years, the feeling of loss never quite goes away.
Hudson chooses not to put his energy into the negative emotions. He knows that that is not a path worth treading. Instead, he wants to focus on what he can do to live for Carlos Sr.
All he wants to do is make his father proud.
"Just keep being the man that I am," Hudson said. "Just being a good man. Yeah. And just taking care of my family."