Devlin Hodges is 6’1”. He weights 210 pounds, at least according to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ website. He went to a small school, many teams likely may not have even seen his tape coming out of the draft, perhaps only knowing him as the quarterback who broke Steve McNair’s FCS passing yardage record.
Yet only two teams brought him in for their rookie minicamp on an invitation basis. The Steelers were his second rookie minicamp, after he went undrafted. They signed him, yes. They played him a lot in the preseason, under the circumstances; that’s also true.
But he didn’t make the 53-man roster. They didn’t sign him to the practice squad until after they traded Joshua Dobbs following the first game of the season. And the fact that they signed him to the practice squad, instead of the 53-man roster, as their third quarterback is already a major deviation from the norm.
Needless to say, Duck hasn’t had a whole lot handed to him. He’s been through a lot, and accomplished a lot through his abilities, to get himself to the point at which he now stands, which may well be the opportunity to earn the starting role for the remainder of this season—potentially even a long-term backup role, if he steps up to the plate.
A lot of it does have to do with his on-field performance. But he has also drawn others to him through his demeanor, his confidence, his personality. He has had people respond to him positively because of his natural attributes. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner addressed this with reporters yesterday.
“Well, he plays with a lot of confidence for sure. You wouldn’t be able to tell he’s from a small school”, he told reporters, via transcript. “It’s not like playing against big schools when he was at the small school. I think he plays with a sense of ease. I think he plays with a sense of rhythm. He’s been good when we asked him to be for us”.
Most of what he has been asked to do has come with minimal preparation, and often cold off the bench. This week, he’ll have prepared with the starters, and the offense will be catered around him. It will be the plays he’s satisfied with that they’ll run. Things of that nature. And his teammates will have his back, because he’s earned their respect.
“I think they respond to the underdog. I think we all do to some degree”, Fichtner said. “I get that, but the bottom line is he’s on our roster, he’s competed, he’s been here. He’s been through training camp, he’s been through minicamp, so it’s not like it’s new. It’s not like maybe some of the other positions that we’ve had to fill in the season, so I think there’s a confidence and I think there’s a comradery with the players. They’ve been with him. You have your group of buddies on the team, and obviously everyone cheers for their buddy”.
On Sunday, Duck is everybody in Pittsburgh’s buddy. Unless they’re wearing a Myles Garrett jersey.