Mister Cellophane

It's a topic often debated and rarely settled. From the acrobatics of Georgia's A.J. Green to the imposing physicality of Alabama's Julio Jones, the battle for the conference's top wide receiver is usually discussed among outside pundits as a two-man race.

They're flashy speedsters with freakish size. Even better, each can take over a game at any given time, leaving NFL scouts drooling about their respective professional careers sure to be realized.

But in terms of all-around production, look no further than Ole Miss senior Shay Hodge. Unfairly placed on the backburner of the nation's hype machine, the Morton native stands second in the SEC among active players in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions.

"It used to bother me, but I'm going to take it as needing to work harder," Hodge said of the apparent lack of attention. "I guess you've got to do something better or more spectacular to let everybody know who you are."

"I definitely think he's underrated, and he is a big time receiver for us," junior quarterback Jevan Snead added. "I know he's a great receiver and I wouldn't want anybody else out there in the position he's at. The chemistry me and Shay have is tremendous. I know any ball I throw near him, he's going to make a play for me."

With his team-high three touchdowns this season, Hodge is second all-time at Ole Miss in TD grabs with 17.

In 2008, the 6-foot-2, 207 pounder tied for the SEC lead in TD catches (8) and finished sixth in yards per catch (16.5), eighth in receiving yards per game (55.8) and eighth in receptions per game (3.38).

However, for such a proven commodity, you'll rarely find Hodge's name sprinkled across prime-time television. In fact, when the senior takes the field on any given Saturday, even the attention of opposing defenses is diverted to fellow Rebel wideout Dexter McCluster.

"Dexter gets all the attention," said Hodge. "It's fun having him on my side, because that's going to help me get open."

On the year, Hodge has collected 17 catches for 269 yards. But unlike previous seasons, receptions have been hard to come by for the Rebels' leading receiver in 2009.

In a 16-10 loss to South Carolina, Shay logged only one catch. Though quiet in nature and work ethic, the frustrations of an offense out-of-sync weren't missed by Hodge.

"That's what I try to tell everybody when we get mad when we don't get the ball," he said. "You've got to have a lot of character to play wide receiver, especially if you're not one of the main guys getting the ball. You just have to have a good attitude."

In football, receivers are usually branded prima donnas, showcasing boisterous personalities and a reputation of selfishness.

But a need for praise is absent in Hodge. Instead, following a wearisome night in Columbia, he returned to the practice fields with an added focus.

The work certainly paid off, as Hodge totaled his second career 100-yard receiving game against Vanderbilt on eight receptions.

"I know (the South Carolina game) bothered him a little bit, but he came back the next week and had eight catches for over 100 yards," McCluster said. "I don't think it affected him much. It just got him that much better during practice the following week and he went out and showed he wanted that ball. When I see another player getting the ball all game, like Shay did against Vanderbilt, I say just keep throwing it. If it's working, keep doing it. However we win is fine by me.

"He watches film all the time – more than I do. He's a great player. Shay can jump up and catch the ball, and his speed is getting better. He can run past people now. He wasn't doing that as much last year. But overall, he's just a great athlete and a great player."

When assessing Hodge, some scouts would claim imperfect route-running and a lack of ideal speed.

However, rather than disregard criticism, Hodge is constantly looking to better himself in all aspects, according to McCluster.

"It all comes with repetition and knowing what your faults are," he said. "Shay wants to learn every day and will stay a little longer after practice just running routes. He knows a lot about football. He knows what every receiver in college football and the NFL is doing. He's a very smart player. He watches those players who are great and tries to mimic them."

With a CBS matchup against No. 3 Alabama on deck, Hodge will be given yet another chance to showcase his talents to a nationally televised audience.

And for a player in search of exposure, Hodge welcomes the opportunity.

"When you show up in big-time games, that's when you get your name out there," he said. "Like this game (against Alabama). When it's on TV, that's when everybody gets to talking. That's how I see it having watched a lot of football. Those guys (Jones and Green) have done it. I have to do it."


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