Having set the goal to meet an actual Texas Longhorn football player (see my previous post) I was extremely lucky to reach out to Brandon Hodges and ask him some of those intriguing questions I got after attending the game in Austin.
I was impressed with the story of this young sportsman and his determination to succeed in sports which opened up opportunities that he would not have gotten otherwise.
Here is our conversation…
Being one of the top-rated players in the JUCO (junior college) ranks Brandon was transferred from East Mississippi Community College to University of Texas Longhorn team where he plays as offensive lineman. Offensive lineman’s primary job is to block the opponents. Offensive linemen tend to be the largest players on the field, with excellent agility and balance.
Why did you choose American football out of all other sports?
I started very young. I could not walk yet but I already knew about American football. It is a thing you are raised on. Everybody in my family played football – my Dad is a football guy, my brother played before me. So I just continued the tradition.
American football is a dangerous sport particularly because of concussions and all the risks related to it. Doesn’t it stop you?
Concussions are one of the biggest factors and its gonna continue to be a big factor. Sometimes you get a minor concussion and you don’t even know about it, but you are still hurt. But it doesn’t stop me. You gotta love football. It just comes with it.
It is all about protecting yourself at the end of the day. It is also about playing a full speed. Sometime you are not playing the full speed and this gets you hurt. Also all equipment they give you helps and they are making different type of rules so that people don’t get hurt that much.
Currently you play as offensive lineman. What do you like about this role in the team?
In high school I played a little bit of defensive end, it was pretty nice. But all my life I played as offensive lineman and I just love it. It is about being physical, about outsmarting your opponent. Those things I enjoy.
How does it feel like to be on the field when so many fans are watching you? How do you handle responsibility and pressure?
When you put on your helmet, you strap up your pants and you walk out the tunnel and the smoke goes everywhere, you look around, you see thousands of people and your heart just starts to race. And it’s a great feeling. Just having fans who support you and give so much energy creates great feeling. But I must say this: when I’m in the game and I’m on the field I can’t hear anything. I’m so consumed by the game that it is just like I’m alone sometime, or all I hear is “Ready, Set, Go!”. I’m just so focused, nothing can distract me from my object. So this is one of the things I like about myself and I feel other players do the same too, not just me.
Everybody has this nervous butterfly gut feeling before the game. It is kinda everybody needs though. You shouldn’t go in the game not feeling some type of worry. After the first play all the nerves go away and it’s the game time.
How difficult is it for you to handle defeats?
Everybody hates loosing. It is just one of those things when you have to go back to working. You can’t hang your head down every time you lose. You can’t quit. Keep fighting and once you keep fighting- success will happen. It will happen, I promise it will. You just gotta focus on little things cause little things have big things, and if you don’t start with small – you won’t get anywhere. So it’s all about starting from scratch, going back to basics, fundamental, and once you do that you’ll have a success.
How difficult is it to not slow down the pace after the wins?
When you win and you are not used to it, you get on this little pedestal and say “oh, we gonna win all the time”. But NO, you have to keep working. You have to put the same work as if you lose. So if you win you are happy for that night, but then – back to scratch. It is like for the loss. Keep pushing. Go back to small things which help to succeed.
What does make a player successful to your opinion?
How he handles failure. I think that’s what it is. That’s how you distinguish one player from another. If you have a player who fails but continues to push through his failure and who does not get to a state of mind “oh I suck, I never gonna get this right”; if he can handle this failure and he can bounce back and do everything they ask you to do without a doubt – that’s the great player. That’s how you handle failure, that’s how all greats become. They work hard, they get knocked down but they get back up. That’s how you find greats in every sport.
Does playing football help in your life?
Football is one of those games that ties into your life. When you lose it gives you sense “oh, I need to fix this about myself”. And for instance, if I bombed on the test I know I need to study more. You go back and do the little things: I need to read this, read that, etc.
Football helps you be a people person, helps to understand people. We know how to take criticism. If somebody is doing something wrong, we know how to get him on a right way because we know how we don’t like to be yelled at.
So it helps in numerous amount of ways in a life. Football is a great sport and it shapes your character.
Tell a bit more about your way to the Texas Longhorn team. When and how did you get noticed?
It all started at high school. I was undersized and actually was overlooked by a lot of schools. I did not have an opportunity to go to a four-year school right off bat, so I attended a junior college by the name of East Mississippi. This is the best junior college you can go in the world basically. They won football national championship prior to the year that I came.
And I went there expecting to play during my freshman year, but I did not play at all. And this is only a two-year school by the way. So I started on my sophomore year at left tackle and attracted a lot of attention. This happened thanks to the guy who played next to me. He got big offers and schools came to look at him. But looking at him they were looking at me too, so he helped me out by just getting people to come to the practice and watch me also, so people started showing interest in me.
What did you feel when you got the offers from Universities?
Getting offers from universities was a big success in my life. A lot of kids at junior college don’t get to go to university cause it is much harder. You have to compete with high school kids that are highly ranked, and usually you have to attend football camps to increase your chances. But I did not have enough money to attend camps. And yet I got the offers. Having this type of success just made me humble.
Why did you choose University of Texas out of other offers?
Texas, Alabama, a lot of colleges around here predominantly ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and the Big12 come to you and ask how would you feel to get an offer from their university. They would bring you to the visit, they show how they are good and make you feel at home. But I chose University of Texas predominantly for education. This school has a lot of tradition. This is the best school in the South and I did not want to go too far from my home in the state of Mississippi. Good education program and great diversity of people around here made my choice.
Can you choose any degree you want at the University which makes you an offer?
You are limited on which degree you can choose here when you play sport. For instance, I wanted to be in architecture but the time the class was available was the time of practice, so I couldn’t do that. So instead I am doing my major in youth community studies and my minor in kinesiology. So it’s pretty cool.
What is your professional goal?
My ultimate goal is to go to NFL(National Football Leage). Getting a chance to go to NFL would be pretty nice, but the sad part is everybody cannot go to NFL. So it is always good to have a plan B. And my plan B is to be a coach or to do real estate projects.
What is your life goal?
I just want to be a very successful man whether it is in sports or in a social world. Want to help people. Make sure people’s lives are better, want to create organizations and charities to help kids that need things. Lot of things are going on in the world right now which are bad, and I just want to be one of those guys who makes a difference, who makes this world a better place.
Learn more about American football in my next interview with another outstanding player ranked No. 1 in the state of Texas who I was fortunate to talk to!