The Pittsburgh Steelers are now on their third-string quarterback. Backup Mason Rudolph was ruled out for Week 6 after taking a scary shot against the Baltimore Ravens the week before. Devlin Hodges will make his first career start when the Steelers take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
Hodges was on Pittsburgh’s practice squad until Ben Roethlisberger suffered his season-ending elbow injury on Sept. 15. The Steelers signed Hodges as a rookie undrafted free agent in May, released him, and then re-signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 10. You may not have heard much about Hodges, but he’s got a pretty interesting backstory — and nickname.
While playing his college ball at FCS Samford, he broke one of Steve McNair’s records.
From 2015-18, he played his college ball at FCS Samford, where he finished as the FCS’ all-time leader in career passing yards with 14,584 yards, McNair’s previous record of 14,496 yards. During his senior season in 2018, he won the FCS Walter Payton Award and set a single-season school record for passing records, throwing for 4,283. He’s also the first Samford QB playing in the league since the 1940s!
Steelers new QB Devlin Hodges is all-time FCS passing yards leader, first QB from Samford to play in NFL since 1940s. Showed well enough in camp that some observers liked him better than Dobbs, who was then traded to JAX. Marched down field for go-ahead TD, best PIT drive of day— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) October 6, 2019
A former three-star recruit from Morris, Ala., Hodges committed to Samford despite having offers from Appalachian State, Georgia State, and Louisiana-Monroe. He averaged 254 yards on the ground per season at Samford, but he can stand strong on the pocket when he needs to:
TOUCHDOWN ‼️— Samford Football (@SamfordFootball) November 3, 2018
Hodges puts it to Ware on the wheel route!#FunFastPhysical#AllForSAMford pic.twitter.com/TfEURLJqXV
He’s got a nice touch on the long ball, too:
Samford Prospect Thread:— Chris Nelson (@THEffVigilante) February 24, 2019
Finishing up my QB list & the 1st play I see from Devlin Hodges vs FSU is this. Patient, goes thru progressions, steps up in the pocket & FIRES a shot 2 the other NFL prospect Kelvin McKnight @SamfordFootball #FunFastPhysical #AllForSAMford pic.twitter.com/ieZr0Pwx52
Despite his impressive arm and big numbers, Hodges draft stock wasn’t very high, but the Steelers saw something in him they liked. Head coach Mike Tomlin even reportedly pushed to keep him over Josh Dobbs during the preseason before Dobbs ended up being traded to Jacksonville. During the preseason, Hodges threw for 190 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
Devlin Hodges finds Tevin Jones for the score‼️ pic.twitter.com/sSNpHBK1fW— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019
Off the field, the greatest fact about Hodges is that his nickname is literally “duck.” OH AND HE’S A DUCK-CALLING NATIONAL CHAMPION!
Hodges is an avid hunter, and the nickname became his when he he first got to Samford, per ESPN:
The nickname started during his redshirt freshman year at Samford, because he constantly talked about duck hunting and duck calling. Coach Chris Hatcher started calling him Duck, and it wasn’t long before his receivers picked up on it.
”When you say Devlin around our place, people don’t even know who you’re talking about,” Samford offensive coordinator Russ Callaway said.
When he got to Pittsburgh, coach Mike Tomlin added his own spin to the name, calling him “Duck Dynasty.”
In 2009, Hodges won Junior World Duck Calling Contest when he was just 13 years old.
“In middle school and the first couple of years of high school, I was heavily into duck calling and practiced constantly,” Hodges explained. “But when I went to college, I couldn’t spend as much time on my duck calling because I had to dedicate more time to football and schoolwork. However, I definitely want to get back into duck calling and competing in duck calling contests when my football days are over.”
Hodges embraces the nickname fully:
Quack pic.twitter.com/k1LKKvvjQS— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) October 12, 2019
Hodges is being thrown into the fire, but he’s handled himself well so far.
In his first regular season game action against the Ravens, Hodges completed seven passes for 68 yards. He led the Steelers to a scoring field goal drive in his first series of the game to take a 23-20 lead in the third quarter, but couldn’t get the win as an overtime completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster was fumbled by the receiver, setting up a game-winning field goal for the Ravens.
“I thought he represented himself well,” Tomlin said of Hodges after the game. “I thought he gave us a chance. You have to tip your hat to him. You are talking about a guy that didn’t make our opening 53 and all those things, we know his story. You also have to acknowledge that he has done some good things at every step along the way through the team development process when given the opportunity and that is why he is in the position he is in.
“That is probably why he made the positive showing in spots that he did.”
Against the Chargers, Hodges finished 10-of-15 with 132 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also became the first quarterback having a career start to beat Philip Rivers!
UPDATE: @DevlinHodges10 was up to the task, becoming the first QB to beat Philip Rivers in his first career start.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 14, 2019
He is also only the 9th undrafted rookie QB to win his first career start in the Common Draft era (since 1967).@steelers https://t.co/UGujqfc3m9
His performance wasn’t extraordinary, but he did just enough to help the Steelers earn their second win of the season.
Hodges might only be the Steelers’ starting quarterback for a week or two, but Pittsburgh’s offense is in competent hands until then. Rudolph was a limited participant in practice until the Steelers ruled him out on Thursday afternoon. Hodges has a tough task ahead of him in playing on the road against LA, but Pittsburgh was just fine with him under center.