Howard Hodges part of Chargers vs. Raiders rivalry

Talk about a man with a purpose. Howard Hodges, an undrafted free agent picked up by the San Diego Chargers, is that man. Overlooked all offseason, Hodges is looking towards making the team and reigniting a personal rivalry and a rivalry that will make Chargers fans proud, beating former teammate and current Oakland Raider Robert Gallery.

It was Howard Hodges who had to lineup across from Robert Gallery at Iowa and it was Hodges who got the raw end of the stick. While Gallery went with the number two overall pick, Hodges went undrafted.

"I have been going against Robert Gallery – we came in together," Hodges reflected on his college days at the University of Iowa. "When he was a tight end, I was an outside linebacker. When he moved to tackle, I was a D-end. I have been going against Gallery five years."

Hodges truly thought he should have gotten his due. He went against the best left tackle in college football and finished his last two years at Iowa with 20 sacks. He was being prepped by Gallery and was decimating the competition ending his senior campaign with 11 sacks, three quarterback hurries and 13 tackles for a loss.

And when the scouts came looking it wasn't Hodges they were looking at.

"That was one of the things that really had me down, because I went against a person like Gallery. You watch my practice tapes and there were times Gallery got me and there were times I got him. Gallery even mentioned I gave him good looks. I felt like me and Gallery kind of made each other because we have been going against each other for so long. Teams not seeing that I go against the number two pick, potential Pro Bowl player, and teams not looking at that…I was like ‘whoa.'

"I am going against the best guy everyday in practice. I was hoping that would help out with the draft. Unfortunately it didn't go my way. Gallery – he is a great player. He has great size and he deserved every bit of what he got. He deserved to be the second pick. He deserved to be the top lineman in the nation. I give my head up to Gallery."

Separate paths have led them to rivalry. While Gallery joined Oakland, Hodges was picked up by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent.

Hodges may not have had the headlines that Gallery did but he is just as pumped to be in the middle of a heated rivalry between the two teams. When the two face off, Hodges is hoping he is lined up opposite the behemoth left tackle. After all, he has something to prove.

"It's going to be good," Hodges said in anticipation. "It's going to be fun. I get to go against Gallery because this time it won't be for practice. It would be not only for bragging rights, but in a game situation. Street ball."

Hodges speaks like a man that fully expects to make the team. He believes he is better than many have made him out to be. The scouting is still going on for Hodges but now it is the San Diego Chargers coaching staff that must be impressed.

If they are he may one day fulfill his dream of lining up against Gallery in a game situation. Only then will he be able to silence the critics and put scouts out of a job.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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