LB Loves To Compete

A few years ago Abdul Hodge kept hearing about how he's too small and too slow to play major college football. Three years later, Hodge is an All-Big 10 linebacker at Iowa and projected to be a very high NFL draft pick in the future.

Hodge's younger brother, Elijah, said he already expected to hear some of the same things about his game. Afterall, he doesn't blow you away with his 4.7-40 time and he's not the biggest guy in the world at 6-0 and 195 pounds.

However, like his brother, Elijah can flat out play.

"I feel like I have a certain level of knowledge about the game that gives me an advantage," Hodge said. "All my older brothers played linebacker before me. I was always around them growing up, seeing everything they went through. Now that I'm the last one, I think I'm the smartest one."

He might be the most athletic one too. Before transferring to Dillard during his junior year, he was on the varsity track, basketball, and wrestling teams at Boyd Anderson.

"I'll be doing all that again my senior year," he said. "I want to stay in great shape. Now I'm just hitting the weights and working hard as we get ready for the coming season."

While Vernon Smith had most of the attention on Dillard's defense last year, it was Hodge making most of the plays.

"He probably made 20 plays against us," one opposing coach told me at a recent camp while we watched Hodge run through drills. "If there's a better pure linebacker in the state, point him out to me."

That'd be a tough task. Hodge finished last season with close to 100 tackles and hopes to get a lot more this season.

"I want to go out with a bang," he said. "I wanna play on another level than everyone else so that I can help our team reach the state game. That's the goal this year. I wanna be the best defensive player in the county playing on the best team in the county."

Hodge, who has played linebacker since he first began football at the age of six, is already a full academic qualifier as well. Those are more reasons why he's such a major college prospect.

"I only have four offers in writing so far," he said. "I don't even count them if I don't see it in writing. Pittsburgh, Rutgers, NC State, and Duke have offered me so far. I talked to a bunch of coaches about it during May though."

One of the coaches he talked to was UM linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves.

"He said he likes me and that he likes my speed," he said. "He said they're gonna be watching me and my boy Gerald (Williams, a LB from Boyd Anderson). Hargreaves, he's real cool, I like talking to him."

Hodge said the Hurricanes are near the top of his list of early favorites.

"Basically, my top five would be Miami, NC State, Duke, Iowa, and LSU," he said. "Hopefully I get all those offers so I can have my pick. I'm just focusing on what I need to do for this team right now."

Hodge, who plans on camping at Auburn and LSU later this summer, said he won't even look at depth charts when making his final decision.

"I don't even care to look," he said. "I know that there will be competition wherever you go. The best man will play. I'm confident in what I can do. I love to compete, that's what it's all about. If you wanna play big time college football and in the NFL someday, it's all about competing with the best. I'm ready, I think I can run with anyone."

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