With rookie Devlin Hodges plan to bear his first NFL delivery Sunday night when the Steelers plod to Los Angeles to face the Chargers, there’s rather rather of trepidation surrounding the crew’s probabilities.
Despite every little thing, the Steelers are fair correct 1-4 with Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph initiating the first five video games.
But Roethlisberger is out for the season with an elbow injury and Rudolph seemingly will omit this game with a concussion suffered in the third quarter of ultimate Sunday’s 26-23 further time loss to the Ravens.
How are things going to stare with a player who no longer simplest went undrafted in the spring, but moreover went unsigned after that?
The nation will be watching, hungry to learn more about Hodges. But there will be rather loads of oldsters in Birmingham, Ala., the build Hodges starred at Samford College, that will be Steelers fans that day. They know all about the man they fair correct consult with as “Duck.”
There had been eleven quarterbacks chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft. There had been one other thirteen rookies signed by groups straight away after the draft. Hodges made the Steelers’ roster after coming in for a tryout throughout rookie minicamp, beating out two other quarterbacks for the plan, including Brogan Roback, who had been one among the stars of “Laborious Knocks” the 365 days earlier than in camp with the Browns.
Hodges swiftly showed the Steelers he belonged in an NFL camp, something that modified into once no longer frightful to his coaches at Samford.
“He modified into once potentially the counseled FCS player to ever play the game,” his Samford offensive coordinator, Russ Callaway, told me. “We had been afraid when he wasn’t drafted. He’s the all-time passing chief in FCS history. He won the Walter Payton Award. He modified into once potentially the first player to bag the Payton Award in 10 years and no longer acquire drafted.”
There had been potentially some causes for that. First, at 6-foot-1, he does now not bear counseled measurement. 2d, he does now not bear a cannon for an arm. But what he does is play quarterback and play it effectively.
“Hi there, this man fair correct throws completions,” Samford head coach Chris Hatcher stated Tuesday on ESPN 970-AM. “It’s going to also simply no longer stare the prettiest. He can also simply no longer bear the strongest arm, but he looks so as to transfer the crew down the self-discipline. That’s the job of the QB when it’s all stated and performed.”
Hodges did that more than every other player in FCS history, breaking Steve McNair‘s all-time protest for passing yards with 14,584. That is ready eight.3 miles price of yardage. He moreover had 111 touchdown passes. And whereas he modified into once typically doing that in opposition to other FCS colleges, Samford scheduled at least one Vitality-5 college per 365 days.
Hodges played in opposition to the likes of Georgia, Florida Converse, Mississippi and Louisville in his four years at Samford. And he did so working with athletes that weren’t up to that level.
“He threw for roughly 500 yards each time we played those colleges,” Callaway stated. “He had a few of his most fine video games in opposition to those bigger colleges.”
“If other folks save their compare, the man modified into once the Walter Payton Award winner, one of the best honor you are going to acquire,” Hatcher stated. “The very counseled honor in FCS football. He broke a 25-365 days-former heed that modified into once plan by the massive Steve McNair. The fellow’s a genuinely accomplished player. But the breeze he’s taken has been gorgeous unbelievable.”
That it has. Now not simplest did Hodges need to assemble a plan in the offseason program, finding playing time in the preseason modified into once tricky. The Steelers had a pair of younger quarterbacks in Rudolph and Josh Dobbs for whom they wished to acquire playing time.
And Roethlisberger modified into all once more energetic this offseason and at practising camp than he had been in the previous as he tried to acquire on the the same web page with a brand contemporary group of receivers.
It did now not allow for rather loads of alternatives for a man introduced in as a “camp arm.”
But Hodges saved impressing.
“We may seemingly per chance exit for seven-on-sevens and he’d acquire nine probabilities and complete seven of them,” linebacker Bud Dupree stated.
It wasn’t persistently gorgeous. Hodges does now not bear the strongest arm, but he’ll throw from every assemble of assorted angles, turning in the ball take care of the excessive college shortstop he modified into once rising up in Alabama.
Hatcher and Callaway inherited Hodges as a redshirt freshman after taking up the Samford program. What they chanced on modified into once a quarterback who modified into once counseled to flee their version of Mike Leach‘s air raid offense.
“What we save, we’re no longer mountainous complex plan-shimmering, but we would give him five varied suggestions every play,” Callaway stated. “When he seen it, he would acquire it out so swiftly because his begin is simply correct so fleet. He processes those things swiftly and fair correct will get it out.”
But coming from that offense potentially damage Hodges in the draft job.
“Maybe it is altering rather of bit due to Pat Mahomes, but other folks in the NFL bear regarded on the air raid quarterbacks as device guys,” Callaway stated. “Then, on top of that, Duck modified into once an FCS man, so he did now not acquire the looks he ought to unexcited bear. Duck can play the game.”
That grew to turn out to be apparent to Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ teaching crew. They did now not contend with Hodges take care of the same earlier fourth quarterback in practising camp, no topic the design he had gotten to that level.
“He has an awareness and savvy, or moxie, about him that’s previous his skills,” Tomlin stated. “It modified into once evident in Latrobe, he carried it in the preseason stadiums and now he has given us rather of insight that he’s correct of carrying it into the abnormal season stadiums. It’s all certain. Obviously, he lacks rather loads of skills in the things that walk alongside with skills, but I take care of his demeanor. I take care of his ‘steady Eddie’ angle and design to it. I ponder that’s an asset to him and us in the contemporary circumstance.”
Even so, the Steelers released him on the conclude of practising camp, maintaining Rudolph and Dobbs as their backups to Roethlisberger. But the Steelers traded Dobbs to the Jaguars for a fifth-round draft snatch after Week 1 when Jacksonville starter Carve Foles modified into once injured.
They signed Hodges support to their note squad. Then, Roethlisberger got damage that week and Hodges modified into once signed to the energetic roster to be Rudolph’s backup.
Closing Sunday, the football locations of work at Samford had been abuzz.
“We had been preparing for our next game, grinding away and someone yelled ‘Hi there, Duck’s in the game,'” Callaway stated. “There may be rather of TV in the crew room, all of us ran down there and watched the relaxation of the game.”
Getting into midway thru the third quarter, Hodges accomplished 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards and had a mountainous 21-yard flee that plan up a walk-ahead self-discipline aim late in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Ravens. He grew to turn out to be the first undrafted player to complete a complete lot of passes in a game for the Steelers since Tony Dungy did it in 1977.
Now, he’s in line to bear his first profession delivery.
“I am freaking jubilant to dying for him,” Callaway stated. “I am more frightened now than I modified into once when he modified into once right here playing for me. But I fair correct make a choice to stare him save effectively.”
Now, about that nickname. Hatcher gave it to Hodges when he arrived on campus after checking out Hodges modified into once an accomplished duck calling champion and hunter.
“He modified into once a redshirt freshman. He’s a genuinely confident player. He plays with rather of little bit of an edge about it. Whereas you ought to stare a genuinely confident man, assert over with him about duck hunting or ducks,” Hatcher stated. “I told him, ‘I’m going to delivery out calling you ‘Duck,’ since you seem more obsessed on that.’ I told him when he made the crew having a correct nickname would support raise him a prolonged design. And sure enough, it’s helped him to acquire to this level. Now not no longer up to that’s what I acquire to ponder.”
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