Double amputee throws TD, wows Stafford, Lions

DETROIT -- Calder Hodge has big dreams; record-breaking, life-changing, world-inspiring dreams. He's 14 years old. Due to a rare disorder called fibular hemimelia, his legs were amputated when he was 3.

That never stopped him from thinking big. From pushing to do everything that his older brothers could do, and maybe even more than that.

Hodge wants to be the first double amputee quarterback in the NFL. He loves football. Breathes football. And his favorite player is Matthew Stafford. Which led him to Detroit, to Ford Field and to a moment he'll never forget. Hodge, who artificial-turf company FieldTurf helped bring to Lions practice, thought he was heading to watch Stafford and the other Lions quarterbacks work out.

Lions coach Matt Patricia had something else planned. He wanted the Lions to run a play. To have Hodge, instead of Stafford, at quarterback. And to have him throw a touchdown.

"They were walking me over to the sidelines so I could watch the quarterbacks warm up and Matthew Stafford called me over and it just all happened," Hodge said. "He said, 'All right, you want to throw a fade ball?' And I said yeah."

Hodge, who lives in Magnolia, Texas, lined up in shotgun with Stafford standing next to him. He took the snap. Threw the ball to the back corner of the end zone for receiver Marvin Jones, who leapt up and caught it. Then Jones sprinted back to Hodge as the Lions all went wild. They gave him the ball, which he was still holding a half-hour later.

"It wasn't planned. He was out here and Coach said, 'Hey, everybody gather up,'" Jones said. "He's a quarterback. He has to run a play, you know what I'm saying."

Hodge plays football with the use of two prosthetics called "C-Leg," which is a computerized knee that offers more stability and control. Every year, his sockets change, but the knees remain the same. He's been playing football since age 7 and joked, "I'm not too fast. I'm a pocket quarterback. I mean, I run as fast as I can."

He has the confidence of an NFL quarterback down pat. When he's asked if he has the same speed as Tom Brady, who turns 42 on Saturday, he laughed and then deadpanned, "A little faster. You can quote me as saying that, actually."

He also impressed Jones with his arm, throwing a tight spiral, and Hodge later said he could throw the ball 35 to 40 yards.

More than anything, though, he wants to inspire. He won an ESPY award given out locally this summer and has been contacted by parents of amputees who were born with a similar condition. Hodge said he offered one mother the same advice he lives by.

"Don't hold back," Hodge said. "Let him do whatever he wants to do. Let him be the person he wants to be. Push him to do great things but never hold him back to do anything."

That's what his parents, Mike and Kayla, did. That's also what his three older brothers -- Tyler, Sheldon and Blake -- told him. They never treated him differently. His brothers -- all at least a decade older than him -- pushed him to play football and be a quarterback.

Blake had been a wide receiver, Sheldon a tight end and Tyler an offensive lineman. They would tackle Calder in yard football games. They pushed him to go after his goals and pursue his football dreams. Two of his three brothers, Sheldon and Tyler, are in the Army. Stationed in Hawai'i and South Korea, they text constantly.

One can only imagine what the thread will be like when Hodge tells his brothers about Friday night. And whom he inspired.

"It was awesome, you know," Stafford said. "But as cool as it was for him, it's just as cool or maybe cooler for us. He's getting to come out here and throw a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones, but just seeing what he's gone through in his life up to this point and how he's had such an amazing attitude and overcome so much, it's really kind of inspirational for us.

"I'm sure it's a big deal for him. But man, we watched a video about him today in our team meeting and it was incredible. It was cool to have him out here."

Hodge turned into a Stafford fan because he met one of Stafford's best friends, Pan Lucas, last year when Lucas got him a tour of Big Game USA, a football manufacturing company. Lucas texted Stafford a couple of weeks ago to tell him he had a friend coming up for a practice and to look out for him. Stafford told the quarterbacks and on Friday, Stafford and Hodge met for the first time. While it was a massive thrill for Hodge to throw the touchdown pass, he might have inspired the players who mobbed him more.

"It was very emotional," Jones said. "First of all, it was very emotional when we saw his story. That's the type of heart that I want. He's very intense, and the first thing he said to everybody when he was here was, 'I love football. This is what I do.' "

Hodge will also be at Lions training camp Sunday. Then he'll head home and to start competing for a starting quarterback gig of his own Monday, when practices begin at Legacy the School of Sport Sciences, where he'll be a freshman this fall.

He said before this year he wasn't really given a chance because people didn't believe in him as he played pee wee ball. Legacy, he said, is giving him an opportunity to play -- just like everyone else.

"It means the world," Hodge said. "Now I have an actual chance to go out and fight for a starting job to fulfill my dream of playing football."