Sophomore Wide Receiver Shay Hodge eases into the interview room stoically.
He realizes he's about to do something he's not particularly comfortable with - talk to a gathering of reporters wanting to know every detail of your minute/hour/day/life.
But the quiet warrior obliges, carefully measuring each question and economizing each answer.
Some players only need a hint of the direction a question is going and they can rattle on for minutes. You have to pull words out of Hodge, which isn't a bad thing or a sign of anything other than him being on the shy side.
He'd rather do his "talking" on the field. Don't confuse quiet with a lack of confidence. You'd be wrong.
Through five games this year, the Rebels have not had a whole lot to boast about, but the improvement of the wide receivers is one of them, and Shay's contribution sits at the top of the list.
Through the loss to Georgia, Hodge has caught a team-leading 25 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns, this despite coming off a mid-summer ankle injury that had him hobbling right up to the kickoff of the season opener.
"I expect that of myself," said Shay. "My goal is to catch every ball thrown my way to help the team any way I can. That's all I'm about."
Shay has made his "living" in college football catching most of his passes crossing into the middle of the field, an area where headhunters lurk and major collisions are a certainty.
"I don't have any fear in traffic or going over the middle. It's college football - you are going to get hit regardless, so go ahead and catch the ball," he explained. "You might as well catch the ball while you are getting hit so when you get up you will feel better about what just happened."
Makes sense, for sure.
Hodge has had a steady diet of shorter passes, slants, outs and the like, but he'd like to expand his arsenal as quickly as possible.
"I can go deep, but right now I'm not needed in that role. We've got Mike Wallace doing a great job of that, so I'll take the shorter stuff and spread the defense out," Hodge noted. "When the time comes when Mike is getting double teamed more, I will go vertical."
Hodge, obviously, has a good chemsitry going with Rebel QB Seth Adams.
"Seth has been on target with all of us since spring practice. He gets the open guy the ball. We all know if we are open, he's going to see us and deliver a catchable ball. He throws a tight spiral tha is easy to catch and he doesn't hang you out to dry often," he stated.
Shay doesn't feel he's a complete receiver yet, but he thinks he's getting there.
"I have to start making people miss me after the catch. I have to get a little more agile and quick to get more yards after the reception. Other than that, I'm OK in the passing game. I can get off press coverage good - that's easy to me," he added. "I use my quickness to do that. My next thing is to start blocking better downfield in the run game.
"I'm physical, I don't mind mixing it up, but my technique needs work."
Hodge believes the mindset of the team is good, all things considered.
"We want to win and we haven't given up the belief that we will win this year," he closed. "We are all in this thing together. It doesn't matter who is doing well if the team isn't winning.
"I will take no catches for no yards every week if we could win. I promise you that. Every time. We are going to start winning. It's coming."
Shay Hodge -
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