By Sarah Grimmer
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The public address announcer's voice carries out loud and clear over Kyle Field: "And Michael Hodges with the tackle."The crowd admires the replay on the jumbo-tron. What few of the fans realize is that Hodges' road to become an Aggie was long, twisting and challenging.
"Coming out of high school, I wasn't recruited heavily and the (Air Force) Academy was the only place offering me a full scholarship so I took it," Hodges said in explaining one of the many false starts of his football career after high school. "It was a Division I-A school and I knew we would play some big games but I went into it blindly."
After a season at Air Force's prep school and then shoulder surgery that kept him from playing for the Falcons as a freshman, Hodges left Colorado Spring and returned home to San Antonio. The burning desire to play college ball made the trip.
"Once I got home, I went back and talked to my parents and high school coaches, trying to figure out what would be the best thing for me," he said.
His choices came down to being at walk on at Division I-AA Texas State or at A&M. His mother helped cast the deciding vote.
"She finally gave in and told me her honest opinion about the matter," Hodges said. "She had been trying to stay neutral, to ensure that I was making my own decisions until she said something that stuck with me. She simply told me, 'You'll always wonder if you could have played at that Division I level.' I knew she was right, so I set my sights on A&M."
His simple goal of becoming an Aggie became complicated when technicalities prevented him from being admitted to A&M in the fall of 2007. He enrolled at Blinn Junior College in Bryan, Texas. The clock was ticking and it became 12 months without football.
"It was really tough staying in a workout regimen, running sprints and lifting weights without having a coach there to push you and make sure you are working to the best of your ability,"said Hodges, who is from Helotes, Texas. "I was able to do it though. I was able to stay in good shape and gain the mass I needed to play."
His perseverance, dedication and determination finally paid off in the spring of 2008. An unknown walk on, Hodges performed well enough to be noticed by the A&M coaches.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to make the team so I was nervous going into it, but I never doubted my ability," he said. "I was confident that I had the raw talent to be able to play at this level, I just needed them to see that."
That obstacle overcome, Hodges faced two more. First, while waiting for hours and credits to transfer from Air Force and Blinn, Hodges was ineligible to play last season. Then in the spring, he tore his ACL.
"You go from such highs to such lows," he said. "It was tough."
Yet four-and-a-half months after surgery, Hodges was ready for fall practice. In seven games, Hodges has 28 tackles (10 solo) and against UAB he led the defense with six stops.
"I went from so many different cities, experienced so many highs and lows," Hodges said of his journey. "I went from the bottom to now starting. It has been beyond rewarding. It's like nothing I have ever been a part of. The team is close; we have all really come together and lean on each other for support. It's a really tight knit group we have.
"As far as the students, playing in front of the 12th man just gives you chills. You just thrive off of it, the roar of the crowd; it definitely makes you play better. The fans are so supportive and are always there for you whether you are winning or losing. Their dedication, loyalty, and spirit are unmatched."
Hodges credits his parents and his coaches - in high school and at Texas A&M - with helping him plow through adversity. Aggies defensive coordinator Joe Kines has had a particular impact on Hodges.
"They really expanded my mind, giving me the confidence I needed in myself to believe that I could play anywhere, at any level," said of his support group. "Coach Kines has been instrumental on my success as well. He has helped me bust out of my shell and taught me to really acknowledge and believe in my ability to play."
Hodges ability to persevere is summed up with the words he uses to describe his approach to football: "Be better today; always better yourself each and every day."