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Payton Award winner Hodges eyeing NFL career

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Samford teammates Devlin Hodges and Ahmad Gooden will be on opposite sides in the Tropical Bowl all-star game Sunday in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The two laughed about it last weekend when Gooden told the 2018 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner that he would finally sack him.

Will he?

"No," Hodges says without hesitation, "absolutely not."

Gooden, an All-American himself on defense, remains hopeful, but over the last four seasons, he's also learned not to doubt Hodges when the quarterback puts his mind to something.

After finishing fourth in the Payton voting as a junior, Hodges set an individual goal of the winning FCS offensive player of the year. A year later, he led the FCS with 4,283 passing yards and accounted for 40 touchdowns (32 passing, eight rushing) in 11 games while claiming the 32nd Payton.

Now the three-time Southern Conference offensive player of the year, who set the FCS all-time record with 14,584 career passing yards (14,584), has turned his attention to pursuing an NFL career.

"To me, I know my name's on the award," Hodges said, "but, like I said in my (acceptance) speech, there's a lot of guys that have helped get to this point. It's just awesome.

"I sure like to think that it helps me. I don't know what those (scouts) think, but to be awarded the top player in FCS, I would think I would catch some guys' attention."

At the Tropical Bowl, a fourth-year event that is growing with improved rosters each year, Hodges is one of the bigger attractions. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder ran Samford's air raid offense that spread the field, and now he's seeking to show his talent in conventional pro-style schemes.

"This weekend, I just want to show scouts that I'm a quick learner, I can take snaps from up under center and just play with some other guys around me that I'm not used to playing with." Hodges said.

"I've got a good, quick release. I'm good at extending plays and finding throwing lanes.

"I'm working on different drops. At Samford, we probably didn't do as many drops as NFL guys do as far as taking a five-step or a seven-step from up under center.

Hodges, who set the SoCon's all-time record for total offensive yards (15,601), is being represented by BC Sports agency led by James "Bus" Cook, Brett Favre's long-time agent. The Payton winner is hopeful about getting an invitation to the NFL Combine and will participate in Samford's pro day.

"It definitely feels different, I feel like I have to be at my best every single day," Hodges said, "and that one day that I get the chance to show my talent, like to the scouts on pro day, you only get one opportunity that day. It's exciting. I really can't wait to see what all happens and learn as I go. I feel confident I'm going to get the opportunity and a shot at it. When I do, I just want to be ready."

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FCS Players on 2019 SPIRAL Tropical Bowl Rosters

National Team (Coach Jim Collins)

4, Aaron Blockmon, Campbell, WR/KR; 7, Brad Woodard, Texas Southern, RB/WR/RS; 10, Devlin Hodges, Samford, QB; 18, Marquise Irvin, Mercer, WR/PR; 23, Isaiah Johnson, Eastern Illinois, RB/KR; 42, Trenton Bridges, Bethune-Cookman, LB; 44, Brandon Varner, Grambling State, DL; 53, Matt Pyke, ETSU, C/OG/LS; 91, Connor Christian, Jacksonville State, DT

American Team (Coach Todd Littlejohn)

1, Prince Gray, Jacksonville, WR/RS; 5, Kurron Ramsey, Alabama State, DB; 9, Thomas Linta, Wagner, QB; 13, Andrew Zecca, Saint Francis, P; 24, Ryan Fulse, Wagner, RB; 32, Ahmad Gooden, Samford, OLB/DE; 34, Solomon Brown, Charleston Southern, LB; 50, John Yarbrough, Richmond, C; 52, Jaylin Dailey, North Alabama, DE; 53, Byron Glass, Austin Peay, OL; 63, Thomas Dennis, Penn, OL; 65, Noah Beh, Delaware, OL; 77, Breontae Matthews, North Carolina A&T, OL; 85, Quinn McElfresh, Mississippi Valley State, WR/PR; 92, Zane Smith, Stetson, DL; 93, Antoine White, Albany, DT; 98, Willie Green, Prairie View A&M, LB

Updated January 10, 2019

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