Chargers Undrafted Interview: Howard Hodges

After consecutive all-Big Ten seasons, Howard Hodges, the former Hawkeye defensive end found himself home for all of the postseason all-star games for seniors. He also remained in Iowa City during the NFL scouting combine. <br><br> It led to Hodges going unselected during the 2004 NFL Draft and signing on with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent.

The Texas native earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior. He hurried the quarterback 20 times and accumulated 20 sacks during those two seasons.

Time after time, Howard Hodges was passed up during the drive for the draft. When he was supposed to be getting noticed, he was instead getting further and further from scouts' eyes.

"I turned frustration into motivation," Hodges said. "It was a sad time for me sitting back watching peers that I played with and watching some guys I went against go the Senior Bowl and the Combines. I felt that I was one of those guys that should have been there. I was All Big Ten two years in a row, double digit sacks so it was a little disappointing. I was wondering what was going on because I never got in trouble, I graduated in December so it was like I had a lot of good things going for me, but I didn't get picked up for nothing. It gave me motivation to run harder, train harder and train for that Pro Day. It ended up working out pretty good for me."

So after the dust settled on the 2004 NFL Draft, Hodges, now undrafted, had a decision to make.

Play what would be an "elephant end" for Seattle, or move to linebacker in San Diego. He chose the latter.

"The main reason I chose the San Diego Chargers is they run the 3-4 defense," Hodges admitted. "They pretty much told me I would fit perfect with the system. Washington and Seattle had an "elephant end" and an "elephant end" is basically a three point stance and you get the chance to drop back."

There was a little more to the equation.

"With San Diego, Marty Schottenheimer came down there, probably for Robert Gallery, but he saw me run and he told me I had a good pro day and he wanted to keep up with me.

"As the draft was going by, instead of me talking to the area scouts like I was with other teams, I was actually speaking to the D-coordinator (Wade Phillips) and my position coach (Greg Manusky). They kept talking to me over the phone. By the D-coordinator and the position coach keep talking to you, right there it shows me they really want me and I have an opportunity to go to San Diego."

San Diego has given him a chance. Hodges was so frustrated with the lack of recognition he was getting, despite playing at a prominent Big Ten school.

Call it his chance to prove the doubters wrong.

"I am going to San Diego," Hodges began with a purpose, "To basically make a name for myself and to show the NFL that I was one of those guys that got looked over. I am not seeing myself as a free agent. I am seeing myself as a player who deserved to be there. A football player who wants to make an impact."

This is the same player who posted double digit sack totals and harassed the opposing quarterback into submission. He has already made his name at the college level, now he needs to prove he can do it as a professional.

Remember, frustration equals motivation. And a motto is born.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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