Howard Hodges sat in Iowa's Jacobson building Thursday morning unable to find the words to describe his anger.
After consecutive all-Big Ten seasons, the Hawkeye defensive end found himself home for all of the postseason all-star games for seniors. He also remained in Iowa City during the NFL scouting combine.
"I guess you can say that it irritated me," Hodges said after collecting his thoughts. "I was a little shocked. I understand the combine. There are only so many players that can go. But when it came to the senior bowls and that type of stuff, I thought I'd get into one of them. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. It kind of gave me some motivation for the pro days."
Hodges being overlooked is puzzling. The Texas native earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior. He hurried the quarterback 20 times and accumulated 20 sacks during those two seasons.
The only Big Ten player with more sacks over the last two seasons than Hodges was his teammate Matt Roth (22).
"It's kind of crazy," fellow Iowa draft prospect Jared Clauss said of the Hodges' snubbing. "I went to the East-West Shrine game and there were a lot of players that had no business being there. Don't get me wrong, there were some incredible players there. But it's all politics."
"You've got Gallery, Kaeding, Bob; then you've got (Chad) Greenway and Abdul (Hodge) in the picture; you've got (Matt) Roth," Hodges said. "It's not like a team that only has two guys on defense. We've got like five, six guys on defense. My name just got lost.
"It's good for the program. It lets everybody know that Iowa has a good program and has a lot of guys that can play at the next level."
Hodges transformed his disappointment into drive. He set out to prove people wrong by embarking on a rigorous workout regimen.
"I took care of my body," he said. "It got to the point where I ended up staying by myself. I would just go to the weight room and stopped being as social as I had been. I had a mission. I have never been so motivated."
The Insiders.com ranks Hodges as the 29th best draft eligible defensive end. Its scouts expect him to be an undrafted free agent.
Hodges ignores the evaluations. He moves forward on the advice of former Hawkeye defensive lineman Colin Cole.
"He said, "Howard, control what you can control. As long as you think like that, you'll be straight,"" Hodges recalled. "I thought about it. It made sense.
"I can't control the fact that I can't go to the senior bowls. I can't make them want me to go. At the same time, I can have a good pro day. I just started focusing on the pro day. It got to the point where I was so focused on the pro day, I didn't think about the senior bowls as much, and the combine. I had a good pro day. So, it worked out perfect."
Keeping with Cole's advice, Hodges controlled what he could control at the workout last month. He was timed between the mid-4.5s (seconds) and 4.6s in the 40-yard dash. He benched 350 pounds.
The Insiders.com said this about Hodges: Described as a hard worker and effort player, Hodges projects as a pass rush specialist at the next level. Heart, athleticism and ability to play special teams next summer gives him an added advantage.
NFL teams are contacting Hodges' agent. Hodges said that San Diego and Seattle are showing the most interest right now.
Hodges measured in at 6-foot-2, 253 pounds at the pro day. NFL scouts have told him his best fit would be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"When I first came to Iowa, I was more motivated just playing D-end," Hodges said. "I came here as an outside linebacker, but I wanted to play D-End. Now I'm to the point with this NFL level it's more like a business, and it's like get in where you fit in. That opened my eyes up. I'm willing to play linebacker. I'm willing to make that change for the first time."
Linebacker in a 3-4 wouldn't be too far removed from his role at Iowa.
"I mean, I'm still on the line," Hodges said. "I still get to rush the quarterback. I'll just be in a two-point (stance)."
The biggest question about Hodges playing OLB in a 3-4 is his height.
"If I don't get drafted, I'm going to take it as my size," he said. "I'm not going to take it as what I've been doing. I'd be a little disappointed, but I'd get over it. I see it like a reward, like getting a degree."
Hodges also is a realist. He views himself as a second-day draft pick (rounds 4-6) at best. That said, he doesn't necessarily agree with the notion that it's sometimes better to be undrafted than to be drafted in a late round. That way, you get to pick a situation best suited for you.
"A lot of people do think like that," Hodges said. "You get to pick your team. Me, personally, I want to hear my name called because I feel like I deserve it. I feel like it's a reward. I felt like I put up numbers just as good as any other D-End. I was on a championship team. I have great coaches. So, I felt like I'm in the right position."
Whether it be by the draft or free agency, Hodges believes in his ability.
"I'm playing in the NFL," he said. "I'm playing because I want to. I like playing football, and I don't want to let football go right now. I'm in my prime, and I'm putting up good numbers, and I'm in the flow of things. I want to see for myself if I can play at the next level."