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How many fans had ever heard of Devlin Hodges when he took his first NFL snaps last week? It’s OK to admit you’d never heard the name before. He was practically an unknown.
Hodges took over at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers when Mason Rudolph was knocked out with a horrible concussion. At that point, Hodges was mostly a clean slate for all but the most hardcore NFL fans. He played in college at Samford, which doesn’t get too many dates on CBS or ESPN. He was undrafted, so he didn’t receive any pre-draft attention. He put up a 73.4 passer rating on 38 preseason passes, was cut and signed back to the practice squad.
After injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Rudolph, Devlin is getting the type of opportunity undrafted quarterbacks dream about. He’ll make his first NFL start for the Steelers on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Plenty of people will watch Sunday night and wonder, who is starting at quarterback for the Steelers?
Who is Devlin Hodges?
Hodges didn’t play FBS football, but he did dominate the FCS.
He became the first Samford player to win the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top offensive player in FCS. Hodges threw for 4,283 passing yards for Samford last season. He broke Steve McNair’s record for career passing yards in FCS, with 14,584.
Hodges’ exploits at Samford didn’t help much in the pre-draft process. He wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he didn’t look like the typical NFL quarterback. He didn’t even sign with the Steelers right away after the draft. He was invited to try out at a rookie minicamp, after doing the same for the New York Giants, and the Steelers were impressed enough to offer him a contract. He got a $1,000 signing bonus.
A month ago, following his release at the end of the preseason, Hodges was on the Steelers’ practice squad. On Sunday, he’ll be starting on “Sunday Night Football.”
The quarterback known as ‘Duck’
There’s more to the Hodges story. He is known as “Duck,” due to his love of duck hunting and duck calling, according to a feature by ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor. He also started his athletic career as a very young hockey player, an oddity for someone born in Alabama.
Hodges didn’t look overmatched in his first NFL action. After Hodges came in against the Ravens, he completed 7-of-9 passes for 68 yards. He also rushed for 20 yards. He was poised. Center Maurkice Pouncey told Steelers.com that on Hodges’ first completion, he changed the protection to keep in a tight end to block.
“He saw something, he wanted to keep the tight end in,” Pouncey told the Steelers’ site. “He made a veteran call, it was crazy. Everyone was like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ You could tell he was prepared.
“It’s rare for some veteran quarterbacks to do that. When he did it, it was pretty cool.”
Hodges might be the most anonymous starting quarterback in the NFL this week. Unless someone caught him playing at Samford or was watching until the end of all of Pittsburgh’s preseason games, the only exposure to Hodges came in the second half last week against the Ravens.
For better or worse, we’ll all know more about “Duck” after Sunday night.
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