Ron Lippock spoke with Steelers UDFA rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges about the tryout process, which rookies he’s been tight with and what he has to do to stay on in Pittsburgh.
First, tell me a bit why you chose Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent destination?
Well, I guess they were one of the only options to be honest. After the draft I wasn’t signed by anyone. I had tryout invites by Pittsburgh and the Giants a week before Pittsburgh’s. I did both – I really went to New York’s just to see what it was like before I went to Pittsburgh’s. I knew New York just drafted Daniel Jones and all. So I figured Pittsburgh had the best chance for me. I told myself to Pittsburgh was the best opportunity and to make the most of it.
Any idea why Pittsburgh chose you over guys like Brogan Roback after the tryout?
I don’t know what the deciding factor was – I guess they just thought I was better. I had a feeling that I was going to do well – I was confident that I was the best quarterback during the rookie camp. They told me Sunday after practice that they wanted to sign me. I asked if that meant I should be staying in Pittsburgh instead of going home, and they said yes.
Any frustration in that, despite all the success you had at quarterback at Samford and winning the Walter Payton Award, you weren’t drafted or signed beforehand?
Yeah, I’m not going to sit here and say it wasn’t frustrating. Of course it was. I thought at least I’d get signed by a team after the draft, but it didn’t work out that way. But none of that matters now. I got an opportunity, and I told myself that all I needed was an opportunity. I’m thankful to the Steelers now for this opportunity.
It’s definitely frustrating when you break the records of a guy like Steve McNair. You always want to be drafted, but at the same time if you look back five years from now it won’t matter. All that matters is if I’m still around then.
Now that you’re in Pittsburgh, have you gotten close to other guys and has anyone helped mentor you while you’ve been there so far?
Yeah – a couple of guys have. Everyone I’ve spoken with have been open-armed and helpful. Me and a couple of guys in the rookie class – Gentry, Wood – we’ve explored Pittsburgh together. We all have our groups but it’s a tight-knit class. A couple of us also talked about doing some hunting together, but right now there’s no time for that.
Is it difficult playing alongside guys you look up to and watched on TV just a year ago – to not get caught up being a fan instead of a peer?
You know I do catch myself at times, but not often. I did call my friends and tell them I was warming up with Ben! There’s still some fan in me. Ultimately, I want s people to say the same thing about me someday though. They’re still people – they still put on their pants the same way I do. I am just going to go in and compete every day and enjoy being around not just them, but all of the guys. This is the best of the best here.
You played a lot out of the shotgun at Samford – how hard is it to adjust to being under center and playing a different style of football in general?
It was an adjustment but I picked it up pretty quick. I’m still working on it – but we worked on the shotgun a lot to at rookie camp and OTAs. It’s all an adjustment but I’m picking it up. The coaches gave me a good list of things I need to work on.
Anything specific you can share?
I met with coach and he gave me a list – but it’s mostly about just getting comfortable with the playbook and studying that every day. I feel like I have a good grasp of the offense and can take it all to another level now. I just need to have no real questions when I’m out there so I can compete and play my best.
I’ve learned the system and what I can do in it. I’m fortunate to be in a good spot and look forward to competing.
How do you get the reps you need to compete at a high level with guys like Mason and Dobbs already there?
The coach sets the reps and I just have to make the most of them. We’ll get more reps due to Ben’s schedule. I was told I had to beat Brogan out to make it this far and I did beat him out to get here. Now I will have to do it again and beat out another guy to make the team.
And size – you tired of people telling you you’re too small to play quarterback a the NFL level?
What I tell people when they ask me is that I’m taller than the number one pick in the draft was this year. I know how to play to my size – the different arm angles and how to find the throwing lanes.
Outside of football – what makes you tick? what should fans know about you?
Well, my love of the game hasn’t stopped since I was five years old. People said that when you start that early you burn out but I’ve never questioned not playing. When I’m not playing I’m still going to want to be around the game.
And your duck calling and hunting fame?
I’m a huge outdoorsman and duck hunter. In 2009 I won the Junior World Duck Hunting Championship. In 2018 I won the Alabama State Duck Hunting Championship. I guess that shows I like to compete! I got good at it and duck calling when I was younger – it’s another way of saying I like to compete!