A Different Demeanor
Throughout his Ole Miss career, senior wide receiver Shay Hodge hasn't been much for flashiness.
Bucking the stereotype of professional standouts at his position, Hodge is only dedicated to his craft, likening himself as a "leader by action" type.
But after totaling a team-leading 725 yards on 44 catches in 2008, Hodge has been thrust to the forefront.
"Trusty hands Shay. He's done a great job of taking on a leadership role," wide receiver coach Ron Dickerson said. "He and Dexter (McCluster) organize the position meetings and are being great leaders. I think Mike (Wallace) talked a lot after the season and Shay took it all to heart that it was his turn to carry the baton. He's one of our go-to guys, for sure."
As a junior, Hodge tied for the SEC in touchdown catches (8) and sixth in yards per catch (16.5). He ranks fifth all-time at Ole Miss in touchdown grabs and holds the title of the SEC's active career leader in receptions.
However, until this season, Hodge has been a bit under the radar in terms of notoriety. Considering his humble demeanor, it's certainly understandable.
"I'm trying to be more of a vocal leader and help the young guys," said Hodge when asked of what things he's looking to improve on in 2009.
"I'm trying to show my teammates I'm a leader. I've been working on my route-running and things I know NFL scouts and coaches will look at. I'm trying to make myself the best player I can."
Entering last season, the always outspoken Mike Wallace led the receiving corps on and off the field.
Wallace, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the first in line for drills and also played the role of mentor for newcomers to the position.
But since departed, Hodge has stepped into those shoes to help a talented group of freshmen make the adjustment to their new surroundings.
"The transition is hard," Hodge said of the jump from high school. "If you come in here with a big head, it can get you. Personally, when I came in as a freshman, I came to learn. I got with the older guys. I knew it was going to be different (than high school). So I took it as an opportunity to learn."
Listed No. 1 at split end this fall, Hodge has been partnered with frosh Patrick Patterson to help polish the youngster in running precise routes and effectively implementing technique.
According to Hodge, however, Patterson isn't your typical freshman.
"Dude's pretty good right now. He reminds me of me coming in as a freshman," he said. "I try to keep him by my side and tell how to run certain routes. Running an go-route in high school, you can outrun everybody. Here, you have to use your technique, hands and other small things – things I had to learn. He'll have to learn them as well."
As one of 22 seniors during fall practices, Hodge has experienced countless ups-and-downs over the years.
The 6-foot-1, 207 pounder still recalls three win seasons and far too many conference losses, so pardon Hodge if he isn't impressed by all the preseason hype.
"It's different, because we're hearing all these things about us, but the approach at practice is all the same," Hodge said. "We're putting on our hard hat and coming to work. We're practicing like we were 3-8 like the year before. That's how everybody is approaching it. Nobody has the big head."
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