Some players drafted in the sixth round are just happy to have had their name called on the final day of the draft, the culmination of an uphill dream come true. However, those who thought they were going to get drafted on Day 2 come into the league with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Bucky Hodges – projected by many draft experts as a third- or fourth-round value – is one of the latter. He fully expected to have a designated team on Friday, not Saturday – much less in the late afternoon of Saturday.
“It was frustrating, definitely, I’m not going to lie,” Hodges said. “I know what I’m capable of doing and I know what my goals are – my hunger and my drive to get my goals. I know I’m fortunate to get (drafted), and just to see guys going in front of me I know I’m better than – it adds fuel to my fire.”
Perhaps his slide was due to the fact that he didn’t play tight end until 2014. While players move from one position to another, he made the rare transformation from being a quarterback to being a tight end.
As a redshirt freshman, he was asked to play the role of North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron on the scout team. His defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, was impressed in what he saw and said he should consider making the switch permanently.
“I just felt like a little kid again, because I played tight end in Pop Warner in fourth grade,” Hodges said. “I played quarterback ever since after fifth grade, but I felt like a kid again when I was playing tight end. I just worked every day. In the offseason I’m still working. I want to be great; I want to be a legend. I want to be a name that’s remembered forever in the NFL and I want to be a Viking.”
In three years as a tight end, despite a steep learning curve, Hodges became a big threat in the passing game. He caught 133 passes for 1,747 yards and 20 touchdowns – his TD total tying the all-time ACC mark for career touchdowns by a tight end with Steelers legend Heath Miller.
Hodges wasn’t asked to play the typical role of a tight end, despite being 6-foot-6 and 257 pounds. He spent most of his time lined up as a slot receiver or out wide to create mismatches and his biggest drawback in the eyes of scouts is his lack of experience as an in-line tight end.
But that doesn’t deter Hodges. He wants to be a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion…or, as he put it, a multiple Super bowl champion. He doesn’t lack for confidence or setting the bar high to achieve his goals and said he’s willing to work hard to accomplish those goals.
Asked what makes him so confident, his answer was that he gives the effort to do it.
“My work ethic,” Hodges said of his main attribute. “I’m and going to work harder – not just with the weights, but running routes, catching and everything. The goal is not just for game day, but every practice and every play you have to act like it’s game day. I am professional. Every play, every practice, every rep in the weight room, it’s important. Somebody is out there trying to be better than you and I’m not going to let that happen. I’m hungry.”
There is clearly no lack of confidence in Hodges and he is prepared to make the teams that passed on him rue the decision not to draft him, with a special eye on those teams that took tight ends on Days 2 and 3 of the draft ahead of him.
A lot of late-round picks that thought they would be taken higher than they were come into the league angry and with something to prove. Like everything else with Hodges, he is dialed up to 11.
“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder the size of a boulder,” Hodges said. “I got picked on the sixth round. I was expecting earlier, but I’ve got a story of my own to write now.”