Hodge turning past injury into positive

It is still the first thought that goes through his mind when jumping to pull down a pass, but Shay Hodge knows his freak foot injury wasn't all bad.

A fracture to Hodge's right foot during summer practice sidelined the sophomore through most of fall camp. Repetitions and practice were missed, but Hodge received something more important – a little perspective.

"It was really hard to come back because you have to make it to every rehab and not miss anything," Hodge said. "You set yourself back two days if you do that. You have to have a mindset. I got down a lot about it, but the coaches kept me going. It matured me a lot. Watching them practice during two-a-days and seeing what they do and things I can do to get better."

The July injury forced Hodge to grow up and concentrate on completing a goal. Coach Orgeron challenged him to be ready for the Memphis game. It was a tall order, but Hodge made the choice to do everything to prove his coach right. It was a grueling treatment process and something Hodge is benefiting from.

"It was meant to happen I guess," he noted. "At first, I thought I wouldn't play the whole year, thought it wouldn't get better. I talked to the doctor, and he said that I would be able to run the week before the Memphis game. After he said that, I put it in my mind, and it made me happy."

Hodge has made those around him happy as well with 84 yards receiving on nine catches through the first two games. He also brought in his first career touchdown against Mizzou. Ole Miss is paper thin at wide receiver and is getting a big boost from Hodge. Orgeron called him the team's "go-to receiver" even though he doesn't start.

"It means a lot to me," (O's comments) Hodge said. "I wish I was a starter, but I will take my role as it is right now. On third down, I am coming in no mater what."

Position coach Hugh Freeze has named Hodge his most complete wideout.

"He has good hands and is a bigger guy that can be physical and get off press coverage," Freeze said. "Also, he is fast enough to run vertical."

The new philosophy regarding the wide receivers has impressed Hodge. He credits Freeze and sees a major difference in the attitude of the players at his position.

"Last year was really tough," Hodge said. "We threw the ball 20 times a game, or maybe 18. We used to get mad about it, but now we see why. It is a whole different thing. All of us in the meeting room love each other. I think it is the coach to me. Coach Freeze is the biggest difference. He is a great coach.

"Last year, it was you have to do this or you are coming out. Now, we are all set and know where to be. We know we have to do what we do, but it isn't scolding or saying something bad to you. It is a different mindset."

While the coaches are in charge of the playcalling, Hodge is also very high on his quarterback.

"Seth (Adams) is a student of the game and knows where to be at all times. He does what he is supposed to do. He is a great quarterback with great touch. He throws catchable balls."

Balls that Hodge hopes to be on the receiving end of. Whether he starts or not, being out there and playing is the most important thing.

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