Better Hodge in Madison?

Iowa's star linebacker Abdul Hodge lauds his younger brother: UW freshman linebacker Elijah Hodge

CHICAGO — Entering his senior season at the University of Iowa, Abdul Hodge is a two-time first-team All-Big Ten performer and one of the best linebackers in the nation. But he thinks his brother, Elijah, an incoming freshman at Big Ten rival Wisconsin, is a better football player than he was at the time.

"I think he's more advanced at his age than where I was," Abdul said during the Big Ten media days here Tuesday. "At his age, as a freshman, I think he's way ahead of where I was at."

Abdul Hodge

When Elijah Hodge was growing up, he said in February, his favorite team was Florida State. Why? Because that was his brother Abdul's favorite team. Elijah also followed in his brother's footsteps by developing into one of the best high school linebackers in the nation. And, like his brother, he plans on wearing No. 52 in college.

"For me it was the number given to me by my high school coach," Abdul said. "He kind of looked up to me as a big brother so I think he kind of sees himself as me."

There are other similarities. Abdul is now 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, but as a true freshman he weighed 210. He said his brother recently checked in at 6-1, 213.

"He's probably a similar player to myself, but he's faster than I am," Abdul said. "He's really fast."

But while the elder Hodge has gone on to enjoy a standout career at Iowa, Elijah chose to sign with the Badgers in February.

"A lot of people just assumed that he was going to be up there (at Iowa)," Abdul said. "For me, my whole thing was, ‘Don't come here cause I'm here. Come here because you want to be here. Because you are going to be here four or five years.'"

Elijah actually went to a different high school than Abdul too. After two years at Boyd Anderson, Elijah transferred to Dillard, another Fort Lauderdale, Fla., high school.

"He was tired of people calling him, ‘Little Hodge,'" UW defensive coordinator and co-linebackers coach Bret Bielema said on signing day in February.

"A lot of people probably looked for him to do the same things that I'd done," Abdul said. "And I think he wanted to do his own thing. He didn't want to be seen in my shadow."

Abdul was not the least bit surprised to see Bielema accompany UW head coach Barry Alvarez into his family's home in Lauderhill, Fla. last winter to recruit Elijah. Bielema, after all, had been in the same place four years before, when he was recruiting Abdul for Iowa. Bielema coached Abdul during his redshirt season in 2001, but then left to take the co-defensive coordinators position at Kansas State.

"I had a feeling Bielema was going to come back and get him even if he was at K State," Abdul said. "He recruited me and he knew my brother was going to be a good player. So no matter where he was I knew he was going to come back and recruit my brother."

Elijah was also familiar with Bielema.

"(Elijah) met him. When Bielema came down to recruit me, I think my brother was in junior high or something like that," Abdul said. "So he met him during the time… He knew he was a good coach."

And Elijah knew that Bielema had brought other players from South Florida to the Midwest, including another former Fort Lauderdale prep standout, former Hawkeye linebacker Fred Barr.

"I think it was a close decision or something that he probably thought out over a time," Abdul said. "He had to make a decision at some day and point. He chose Wisconsin."

"He wanted to go to Wisconsin," Abdul added. "He wanted to do his own things. But, you know, I think he made a good decision."

Elijah Hodge is expected to begin his UW career as a will linebacker. He was ranked the No. 16 linebacker in the nation in the class of 2005 by, making him the second highest ranked player in the Badgers' class.

"It's going to be interesting to follow his career," Abdul said. "He's a very smart player, very intense and very emotional. He's been up there all summer so he's been working hard and I don't know, he might play this year."

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