"He doesn't want to be the best linebacker at Penn State. He wants to be the best linebacker in the country, period," his father said. "Gerald doesn't live in the future."
The future could be in the NFL. Hodges certainly has the credentials. The 2011 first-team all-Big Ten selection has been dependable - and, at times, stellar - for first-year head coach Bill O'Brien and the embattled Nittany Lions program.
When team buses arrive at Beaver Stadium on Saturdays, O'Brien exits first. Then it's Hodges, followed by quarterback Matt McGloin, who lead the Nittany Lions in.
"Gerald is energetic when it comes to getting people hyped," safety Malcolm Willis said. "Smack people on the head, get in their face, tell them that it's game time."
Said linebacker Glenn Carson: "But the biggest way he shows his leadership is by the plays he makes on the field."
Hodges, who moved to the strong-side spot this season, is averaging 7.8 tackles per game, with one interception and one recovered fumble.
He's naturally athletic. As a high school junior, Hodges was ranked third in New Jersey with a 40-1 wrestling record. He's also a hard worker.
Hodges Sr. said that when his son came home from high school football practice, he would go straight to his room, put on running shorts, then jet out the door.
"He would invite his buddies to run, but if they didn't want to go he would go anyway," Hodges Sr. said. "He would always come back sweating. I think he would sprint to the neighboring town."
Last season, Hodges requested an NFL draft evaluation. His father did not - and has not - told his son the results.
"I was even surprised that he did the evaluation, period," Hodges Sr. said. "For him to go back to school was not even a hard decision."
Indeed, Hodges has yet to accomplish his ultimate goal: be the best linebacker in the country. He has a chance to get there under O'Brien (a coach with NFL experience), defensive coordinator Ted Roof (who coached on Auburn's national championship team), and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden (he helped develop NFL stars NaVorro Bowman and Sean Lee, among others).
O'Brien said scouts from every NFL team have attended Penn State's practices this year, including the Eagles, who were there last Wednesday.
Hodges grew up a Philadelphia fan and has a Michael Vick poster in his State College apartment. Playing for the Eagles would be a dream, but impressing the scouts is not his motivation now.
"You never really know if they're watching you or not," Hodges said. "If you're out there, you're out there to practice. I'm not out there to impress any scouts."
Chances are, they're already watching.