A star linebacker at a university known for producing them quickly adjusted his sights in the NFL.
Gerald Hodges, who led Penn State his junior and senior seasons with more than 100 tackles in each of those years, knew that special teams would be an important part of his duties with the Vikings, even if they were a bit foreign to him.
"Nothing is promised in this league," Hodges said after the team's final preseason game. "That's one of the things that is promised, playing special teams if you're doing what you should. I knew that was going to be a big role for me right there playing special teams.
"I knew I was going to have to earn my stripes and the way to earn your stripes is on special teams."
It was a new role for the fourth-round draft choice. Defense was his calling card in college and he did it well.
Hodges started 26 of 44 games at strongside linebacker for Penn State, earning various All-Big Ten honors as a junior and senior and becoming only the 11th player in Nittany Lions history to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons.
But with all that production on defense came a lack of opportunity on special teams. He didn't play them there, so he started looking for every chance to learn when he arrived in Minnesota.
"I believe I've improved in every aspect of this game and learned from a lot of veteran guys, even learning from a lot of younger guys that got the hang of special teams that I really didn't know that much about it," he said. "Now I've got a chance. I've really got a good feel for it."
With eight linebackers on the Vikings roster, Hodges will be fighting to stay a game-day active player.
After seeing the performance of guys like Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson, Hodges saw first-hand how the talent level increases in the NFL. College stars can be humbled quickly in the NFL, so he wanted to take advantage of whatever opportunities he could.
He was finally able to take advantage of that in the preseason finale. He got extensive playing time with the starters sitting out and tied with Desmond Bishop for the team lead with seven tackles.
"I got a chance to really get out there and get in a groove, being out there for multiple plays and getting a chance to run around for about a half. It was fun just getting back out there and playing football," he said.
"I can play in this league and I can help them win, just like anyone else that's in this league. I can help them, I can come in here and play and do whatever they need me to do."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Hodges adjusts to new role with Vikings
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