Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2016-17 | KinnickEdge.org | Honorary Captain: Bryan Bulaga | Honorary Captain: Marvin Lampkin | Honorary Captain: Dave Haight | Honorary Captain: Dan McCarney | Honorary Captain: Mitch King | Honorary Captain: Derreck Robinson | VIDEO — Abdul Hodge
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Abdul Hodge followed fellow Floridians Fred Barr, Colin Cole, and Benny Sapp to the University of Iowa football program, but give an assist to a 5-foot-8 defensive back from Erie, Pennsylvania.
Hodge and Sapp were from Fort Lauderdale, Barr was from Plantation, and Cole was from South Plantation. The defensive back was strong safety Bob Sanders.
“When I came here, Benny Sapp introduced me to Bob,” Hodge recalled. “Bob was coming out of the weight room, he has his shirt cut off, his traps are sitting up. The demeanor that he gave off did something to me. I had confidence of what Iowa was getting ready to do the next few years. That gave me confidence into making a commitment to come here.”
Hodge, a linebacker, earned letters from 2002-05. The Hawkeyes went to Orange, Outback (twice), and Capital One bowls during his career.
Like every Iowa football fan, Hodge enjoyed the last-second 30-25 win over LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, but another of his favorites was against Purdue on Oct. 5, 2002. Because the Boilermakers used five wide receivers, UI defensive coordinator Norm Parker installed the Raider defense, pulling a lineman in favor of a linebacker (Hodge).
“That was my first year playing and my first year to have an opportunity to play part for the defense,” Hodge said. “Helping the team win was very important to me.”
The Hawkeyes won the game, 31-28, when Brad Banks completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark on fourth down late in the game. Adolphus Shelton secured victory with an interception.
Hodge is Iowa’s honorary captain for the Hy-Vee Heroes game Friday against No. 15 Nebraska. He led the Big Ten Conference and ranked third in the country in tackles per game (13.2) as a senior. Hodge ranks third in career tackles at Iowa (453) and is one of three Hawkeyes to lead the team in tackles three consecutive years (2003-05). His 158 tackles in 2005 rank second-best at Iowa for a single season. He had 10-more-more tackles in 21 games.
A communications major, Hodge said he knew the University of Iowa was strong academically. As a 195-pound high school senior, he also knew he needed to rely on a strength and conditioning program that would prepare him for the ground-and-pound of the Big Ten. Coach Chris Doyle and his staff did that.
Hodge was a third-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2006. He played professionally from the Packers, Cincinnati, and Carolina.
“When you make a commitment, you’re committed to a lot of different things. You’re committed to the system that is there, you are committing to each other, and the university. It is bigger than “I,” it’s about team, us, the union. That’s why the University of Iowa has success — it’s not about one guy going out and running for 50 touchdowns or throwing for a million yards or getting a bunch of tackles. It’s a collective group of individuals that work together.” — Abdul Hodge
Commitment was Hodge’s theme in an address to Hawkeye players and staff Thanksgiving Day in the Stew and Lenore Hansen Football Performance Center.
“When you make a commitment, you’re committed to a lot of different things,” Hodge said. “You’re committed to the system that is there, you are committing to each other, and the university. With every level there are certain requirements that have to be met with your commitment. It is bigger than “I,” it’s about team, us, the union. That’s why the University of Iowa has success — it’s not about one guy going out and running for 50 touchdowns or throwing for a million yards or getting a bunch of tackles. It’s a collective group of individuals that work together.”
The 38 victories Hodge enjoyed with the Hawkeyes during his career were great, but so were the lifelong bonds he formed here.
“It comes down to the relationships I was able to build,” he said. “I was in Chad Greenway’s wedding, he was in my wedding. Matt Roth was in my wedding; I’m getting ready to be in Charles Godfrey’s wedding. It goes on, it’s the relationships you create here.”
Hodge and his family live in Coral Springs, Florida, where he owns a technology company that builds mobile applications and web sites for businesses.
“I didn’t have a computer until after college,” Hodge said. “I dove into the space, started learning about it, surrounded myself with a great team of developers and designers and self-taught myself a lot of the stuff that we are doing now.
“I was always into electronics, I love technology. I will spend $20 for a pair of shoes, but I will spend a lot of money for a phone or a GoPro camera or an (Apple) Watch.”
Hodge’s daughter was born in 2001, the year he was moving to the University of Iowa. By being named honorary captain, he said it was nice to bring his family to Iowa City so they could see where he spent 4 ½ years as a student-athlete.
“This was a great opportunity,” Hodge said.
Kickoff for the Nebraska-Iowa game is set for 2:36 p.m. (CT).