The Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people by trading starting middle linebacker Gerald Hodges to the San Francisco 49ers for an undrafted rookie center and a sixth-round draft pick during their bye week. Not only was Hodges the middle linebacker in their base defense, but he was also a great presence in the locker room.
During the media access availability in the locker room, it was always Hodges bursting out in laughter or joking around with his teammates. He always seemed to try and keep the other players loose, and plenty of his teammates were drawn to him for that reason.
Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon was very close friends with Hodges and would even refer to him as his “big brother” from time to time.
“It’s hard,” McKinnon said of Hodges being traded. “I think a lot of people were real close to G. He was a good spirit in the locker room, always got everybody laughing and stuff like that, so his presence is definitely going to be missed.
“When you’ve got a guy like that who everybody’s close to, has that locker room spirit and always making sure everybody’s laughing and stuff like that, it’s definitely going to be hard not having him here.”
McKinnon’s locker was put right next to Hodges’ during his rookie season last year and that is where the friendship really started to grow. The two of them could often be seen joking around with one another as they sat there and conversed with one another or the players around them.
But their friendship also extended to outside the locker room as well. They lived in the same apartment complex and it was McKinnon who had to return the keys for his friend since he had already departed to the West Coast.
The second-year running back said that he has gotten a chance to talk to Hodges since he was traded and said that he is in good spirits, but that did not surprise him in the slightest.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” McKinnon said. “Everybody close to him knows that that’s him. Like I said, I just can’t wish him enough, the best, for the opportunity he’s got. I know (NaVorro) Bowman out there is a real good linebacker. He’s been on top of the game for a real long time. So he’s going to have a chance to continue his learning process from him. And he’s obviously going to get his chance when it comes as well.”
McKinnon now is hoping that he will get the chance to face the 49ers again so he can go up against Hodges. The running back was never able to get his revenge the way he was hoping to, so he’s looking forward to playing the linebacker again.
During training camp Hodges made a play on McKinnon and then preceded to crawl over him in celebration. That rubbed McKinnon the wrong way and afterwards he said that he was going to be looking for some payback, just like any friend would.
But maybe even more than getting his revenge, he would enjoy seeing his friend again.
“If you’re a good competitor, then at the end of the day you know you’re going to get the best from the other guy and you’re going to give you’re best to the other guy,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s anything with leaving the friendship out or anything like that. It’s just coming to play. Then once four quarters is up and the clock says zero, then we can be friends again.”