Hodges has a Lion's pride

Gerald Hodges, of Paulsboro, N.J., says he gave no thought to transferring after the NCAA sanctions against Penn State.
Gerald Hodges, of Paulsboro, N.J., says he gave no thought to transferring after the NCAA sanctions against Penn State. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Gerald Hodges never even entertained the thought.

Sure, the 6-2, 237-pound Penn State senior linebacker from Paulsboro, N.J., saw the emails and heard about his high school being contacted by rival universities. But transfer from Penn State, even at a time like this? No way.

"Not at all, man," Hodges said when asked whether he considered making a move after Penn State was hit with NCAA sanctions in July in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the university's handling of it. "It never even crossed my mind."

When the NCAA banned Penn State from postseason play and bowl games for 4 years, cut scholarships and levied a $60 million fine against the school on July 23, Hodges said he had just finished lifting weights and heard the news from text messages.

Instead of jumping ship, he's dealing with the situation.

"At the end of the day, you gotta live with what you got and you gotta play with the hand you're dealt," Hodges said. "That's the hand we were dealt, and we gotta play it. It's over with, everything is over with, and we gotta play under the rules we're playing under."

Interestingly enough, had things gone differently, Hodges could have been gone by now. His father, Gerald Hodges Sr., got an evaluation from the NFL this past year on where his son would likely be picked had he entered the 2012 NFL draft.

The NFL told Hodges Sr. the evaluation, but he would not tell his son, wanting him to decide based on only his own judgment, he said in an April interview.

"It was just something that was placed upon me not to do," Hodges Sr. said. "It was a big decision for him to stay, so I just wanted him to make it based on what he felt he was ready to do in his heart. I just didn't want the evaluation of someone else to determine that."

And so, for the 2011's first-team All-Big Ten player, life goes on as a Nittany Lion for another season before the likely beginning of an NFL career. That's big for first-year head coach Bill O'Brien's defense. Although several players transferred after the NCAA lowered the boom, Hodges brings 106 2011 tackles, most on the team, back to the midfield.

"You have a preseason All-American in Gerald Hodges, who is practicing really well right now," O'Brien said at the team's media day when discussing his defense. "He's making a lot of plays and had a nice practice. Really good inside run drill, really seeing some great things from him."

Last year was a breakout season for Hodges, who recorded 31 tackles in 2010 in eight starts. In 2011, he was invaluable, especially after linebacker Michael Mauti went down in September with a torn left ACL.

Mauti is back now, but that makes Hodges, who thought it was his duty to remain at Penn State, no less impactful.

"I feel as though the coaches are looking at me as a leader," Hodges said. "I feel as though it was my job to stay here with my team and be loyal to my team, because my team is loyal to me."

As one might expect, after the tumultuous summer his school just went through, Hodges is ready to play some football.

"Now that everything's going on and we're back on the field," Hodges said, "guys are just looking forward to playing that first game."

Contact Tim Gilbert at gilbert@phillynews.com.

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