Zack Hodges wasn’t just any NFL draft hopeful waiting for his name to be called over the weekend. The journey the two-time Ivy League defensive player of the year and Harvard’s all-time sacks leader (27) took from childhood to his professional dream is unlike any other.
Hodges’ father died of a brain tumor when he was just 1 year old. He lived with his mother, who worked two jobs and struggled to pay the rent and keep food on the table. Then in 2008, when Hodges was just 16, his mother had a massive stroke and died.
He played in a high school football game the day he buried his mother.
“I played in the game after burying my mom,” Hodges told ESPN in the feature above. “That game was the next step in my life, my journey. All I can control is myself, so I tried to move forward.”
Having lost both parents, Hodges moved to Atlanta to live with his aunt and where he was a standout high school player.
His next stop was Harvard University, where he was a standout defensive end and an inspiration to his coach and teammates.
“We knew that he had a tough time, we knew he didn’t have parents, but it wasn’t something he wore on his sleeve, it wasn’t something he wanted to spend a whole lot of time talking about,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy told ESPN. “He was much more concerned about talking about the future than he was about the past.”
That future became murkier when draft day came and went without his name being called. But soon after, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Hodges was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. He is expected to bulk up, make a transition to outside linebacker and compete for a spot on the team as an edge rusher.