The post-practice semi-circle of reporters around Devlin Hodges’ empty locker was three-deep and the anticipation at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was palpable.
“He’s never out there this long,” offensive tackle Zach Banner offered regarding the Steelers’ newest first-string QB.
Perhaps Hodges’ plan all along had been to make an entrance.
It is, after all, what a first-string quarterback does.
“Y’all mind if I take my pads off?” Hodges asked the assembled minicams, notepads, boom mics and iPhones.
“Y’all mind if I take my pads off?” Banner mimicked. “We didn’t have media at Samford.”
Hodges didn’t have a lot of things at Samford, relatively speaking.
But confidence wasn’t one of them.
The rookie-camp-tryout guy is convinced he belongs.
And initial disappointments about not being drafted nor being signed as a non-drafted free agent aside, Hodges wouldn’t have gotten here any other way.
“I think it kinda fits who I am,” he said. “I never once didn’t think that I wouldn’t be here, or could be here. It’s crazy, especially being gone Week One and coming back on the practice squad, some of the guys on the team were like, ‘Man, I felt like you’ve been gone forever.’ And then with Ben (Roethlisberger) going down, getting brought up, and Mason (Rudolph) getting a concussion last (Sunday), getting thrown in, it’s crazy.
“It’s a crazy process, even from the beginning, just coming here on like a tryout. If five years from now, or 10 years, if I’m still playing in the NFL, I think this whole kind of story will kind of just fit who I am. It just shows that hard work and confidence in yourself and belief in yourself, you can accomplish your dreams.”
Step One toward Hodges’ anticipated first career start on Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Chargers was practice today.
It was a significant step, one Hodges hadn’t been afforded prior to making his unscheduled NFL debut in the Baltimore game.
“When I got thrown in the other day, I don’t think I hesitated at all,” he said. “I was super comfortable, super calm. Heck, the first completion I completed of the day, I checked the protection and everything, and that was just something that I didn’t even get a look at in practice. Honestly, I got no reps with the team or with the No. 1s (the first-team offense). Honesty, I didn’t even get reps on the scout team last week because we brought in a guy to be (Ravens quarterback) Lamar Jackson. I got some 7-on-7 reps.
“Having the chance to prepare with the No. 1s and be in the huddle, it’s kinda just confidence. To me, I’m getting comfortable being in the huddle with a group of guys, potentially, could be in there Sunday.”
The questions came in rapid-fire succession.
Hodges was super calm and super comfortable in fielding them.
Except during one such exchange.
Reporter: “I talked to your mom and she said she’s never seen you nervous.”
Hodges: “You talked to my mom?”
Welcome to QB 1.