INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Towards the end of a 20-hour odyssey, once they crossed Texas from Darnestown, Maryland, Brian and Johnny Hodges came across a bridge.
“Johnny, I didn’t know there was water in Texas,” Brian recalled telling his son Sunday afternoon, the day before Johnny would end his unlikely journey by starting as a linebacker for TCU in the game. for the national title against Georgia. “We ignored Texas so much. We didn’t know anything about Texas.
Johnny Hodges, now a junior and a key cog in the Horned Frogs defense, came to Fort Worth under remarkably unlikely circumstances, and the story has gotten more and more impossible ever since. After his second year at the United States Naval Academy, Hodges was ready to quit the football team and move on to a life without sports. His dad encouraged him to go to the transfer portal, and when the offers didn’t come, Brian Hodges started writing emails to coaching teams across the country.
“Nothing was happening,” Brian told the Post. “No one was responding to those emails.”
“It was a dark time in my life for sure,” Johnny Hodges said. “I thought football was over. I thought I was going to move on to the next chapter of my life without sport. It was a dark, dark time.
Eventually, however, one of them reached the staff at TCU, where Joe Gillespie had just been hired as defensive coordinator. Gillespie had been on staff for Tulsa, an AAC team that plays regularly in the Navy, since 2015 and didn’t need to know who Hodges was. Thus came the only offer he needed.
From there, it was a mess. young Hodges obtained the necessary paperwork to be released from the Naval Academy on a Friday evening and was to be at TCU on Sunday afternoon to meet Gillespie. The father and son got into Johnny’s Toyota 4Runner at 5:30 a.m. Saturday in Darnestown and started driving.
They made a pit stop in Arkansas for the night, then returned there at 8 a.m. the next day.
“We called the coach [Gillespie] and said, hey, we’re a few minutes late, but we’ll be there,” Brian Hodges said. “He’s like, no worries. We’ll see each other when [you] come here.”
They arrived on Sunday January 9; 365 days later, Hodges will take to the field Monday night at SoFi Stadium and play for a national championship.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “It’s what everyone has dreamed of all their life. Every kid who grew up playing football wants to be here on this big stage and reach this level.
Father, like son, always tries to understand.
“Man, you couldn’t line things up better than this, ever,” said Brian Hodges. “And you know what, they kept lining up. That’s it, the national championship tomorrow. I mean, it’s just remarkable. I’m speechless on this. It’s incredible.”
New York Post