A player who quickly gained fans, especially in Pittsburgh, Devlin Hodges’ nickname and success on the field made him seemingly an overnight celebrity to those waving the Terrible Towel. But now, with the Los Angeles Rams, a new fanbase is asking how he got his nickname, and more importantly, what can he bring to the Super Bowl contending Rams team in 2021?
How did Devlin Hodges get the nickname ‘Duck’?
Over the years, there have been some incredible nicknames that have become almost bigger than the athlete. All you have to do is call them by their nickname, and everyone knows who the conversation is about. The Black Mamba, The Sultan of Swat, The Hick from French Lick, Magic, The Mailman, Sweetness, Broadway Joe, Mr. October, Prime Time, The Big Unit, The Great One, Duck.
Okay, so maybe one of those things is not like the others. But don’t tell that to Steelers fans as Devlin “Duck” Hodges’ nickname will long be remembered. Yet, how does someone get that for a nickname?
The nickname started during his 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. And there was a reason he always talked about it as well.
Hodges is an avid outdoorsman and duck hunter. According to the family, he was introduced to the adventure by his father, Zane. Once Devlin got a duck call in his mouth, he rarely took it out. He was a natural and started competing in call tournaments and championships in the Southeast, frequently traveling to Arkansas to hunt and compete.
Due to a chance meeting with an icon of the duck hunting and calling community at the age of 7, Hodges began to be trained by Butch Richenback. All of the trips to Stuttgart, Arkansas, would eventually pay off as Hodges went on to win the 2009 Junior World Duck Calling Contest.
Despite his UDFA status, Duck Hodges found success with the Steelers when they needed it the most
Although not many have heard of Samford University, Hodges lit up the field. His play culminated in winning the Walter Payton Award (the FCS Heisman) and breaking Steve McNair’s 25-year-old career FCS passing-yardage record with 14,584. But for a brief stretch in 2019, Hodges was on top of the world.
Initially going from rookie camp to earning a camp invite, Hodges was actually cut from the Steelers despite his quality of play over the summer as the team trimmed down to the final 53-man roster. However, as he was driving his ’97 Silverado en route to a meeting with the Jets for a potential job, he received a call from his agent, stating that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to sign him to the practice squad. Little did anyone know how important this phone call would turn out to be.
Midway through the Steelers’ Week 2 game against Seattle, Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow gave out, forcing the team to rely on Mason Rudolph. Rudolph would go on to start — though unimpressively — but would suffer a concussion in Week 5.
With Rudolph out of commission, Tomlin did his own rendition of a duck call and tossed Hodges into the game for his first NFL action. Little did he know that a cult-like following was created. Hodges went 7-of-9 for 98 yards and led the Steelers to a touchdown on his very first series.
Hodges started the next game against the 49ers, going 15-of-20 for 132 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Rudolph would come back and start from Weeks 8 through 11 before Tomlin decided to once again turn to Hodges.
He struggled with turnovers towards the end of the season
Hodges went on to win his next two games, pushing his record as a starter to 3-0, endearing him to the Steelers’ faithful. But in Week 15 against the Bills, it all came crashing down to Earth like a wounded Green-winged Teal as Hodges tossed 4 interceptions. Already on a short leash, he threw 2 more the following week against the Jets, prompting Tomlin to play Rudolph. However, a shoulder injury meant Hodges would see one more game in Week 17.
When it was all said and done, Hodges went 3-3 for the Steelers, completing 100 of his 160 attempts for 1,063 yards with 5 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also recorded 21 rushes for 68 yards and 5 fumbles (1 lost).
Expect to see a large dose of Devlin “Duck” Hodges during the preseason
With the Rams getting ready for what should be a deep run in the playoffs, the key for the team is evaluating their depth while not risking a season-altering injury during their three preseason games. They, unfortunately, lost RB Cam Akers already due to a torn Achilles and cannot afford another blow.
Head coach Sean McVay has stated that QB Matthew Stafford will not see any reps during the preseason. But interestingly enough, backup John Wolford is not expected to play this preseason. Wolford underwent an appendectomy over the weekend, likely keeping him out for the next three weeks. Much like Hodges, Wolford has a bit of a cult following after his play last season when Jared Goff could not go in Week 17 or the two playoff games.
According to reports, this was a move McVay wanted to make long before the injury happened. All it did was open the door for him to do it without potential repercussions. If not for the Stafford trade, Goff would have been in serious competition with Wolford for the starting role.
Duck Hodges and Bryce Perkins will battle for Rams’ QB3 spot
The Rams will use the NFL preseason to evaluate their QB3 spot between second-year QB Bryce Perkins and Hodges — both of whom are former UDFAs.
Perkins had a long road to get to this moment. Initially at Arizona State, he redshirted his freshman year. Then he suffered a broken neck and missed the 2016 season. Perkins transferred to Arizona Western College for a season before heading to Virginia in 2018.
Perkins set the UVA single-season passing record with 3,538 yards in 2019. He set the UVA career record for total offense in just two seasons with 7,910 yards, thanks to breaking his own record with 4,307 passing yards. He tied Matt Schaub for No. 2 all-time with 17 wins, is No. 3 all-time with 47 career passing touchdowns, and is No. 1 all-time in QB rushing with 1,692 yards.
Both Perkins and Hodges will get every chance possible to show why they deserve to be in the NFL. This is not only a tryout for the Rams but all 31 other teams looking for potential QB depth. Still, if this were a nickname competition, Duck Hodges has won this easily.
Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.