Devlin Hodges walked into the locker room following Wednesday's practice at the Rooney Sports Complex and the catcalls immediately began to come from his teammates as he approached the throng of media awaiting him at his locker.
"Did they even have media that covered Samford?" offensive tackle Zach Banner yelled from a couple of stalls over.
Hodges looked at him with a grin.
It was likely true that Hodges hadn't dealt with anything like the 25 or so reporters surrounding him Wednesday, but like he has with everything else thrown his way, he handled it like a pro.
With Mason Rudolph in concussion protocol, the undrafted rookie is in line to make his first career start Sunday night when the Steelers (1-4) travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers (2-3).
It's something he's been preparing for since he first picked up a football back home in Alabama.
"Ever since I threw my first touchdown pass when I was 5 years old," Hodges said. "I love the game. I love playing QB. I love everything about the game, everything about the position. I want the ball in my hands every snap. It’s something in me and something I’ve enjoyed since I was five."
He got a chance to do it for about a quarter and a half in Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Ravens, entering after Rudolph was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Rudolph was back at practice Wednesday and remains in concussion protocol. And the Steelers are moving forward as if Hodges will be the starter against the Chargers. They have to since Rudolph cannot officially be cleared until Saturday when he's examined by an independent neurologist.
Rudolph is obviously progressing through the league's protocol, but Hodges is enjoying getting some work with the first-team offense. In fact, because the Steelers signed Taryn Christion to their practice squad last week to simulate Lamar Jackson's running style -- he has since been released -- Hodges didn't even get scout team reps last week.
That's one of the things that made his performance against the Ravens -- 7 of 9 for 68 yards and two rushes for 20 -- so impressive.
"When I got thrown in the other day, I don’t think I hesitated at all. I felt comfortable and super calm," Hodges said. "Heck, the first completion, I checked the protection, and that was something I couldn’t even get a look at in practice because I’m not in there. I honestly didn’t even get reps on the scout team last week because we brought in a quarterback to be Lamar Jackson.
"I got some seven on seven reps. Having the chance to prepare with the ones and be in the huddle, it’s confidence and getting comfortable with a group of guys I could potentially be in there with."
Confidence is a word that continues to come up a lot when you speak to people about Hodges.
"He's ready. He's always been ready to play," Donte Moncrief said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder."
That chip comes from his journey to the NFL. Considered too small, too weak-armed, too, well, everything, Hodges went unselected in the draft. Then, he went unsigned after the draft, only making the Steelers' offseason roster after a tryout at rookie minicamp.
Then, he was released at the end of the preseason, only making it back on the Steelers' practice squad after the team traded Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars after Week 1.
"I tell everyone, it kind of fits who I am," Hodges said. "I never once thought I couldn’t be here. It’s crazy, especially being gone Week 1 and then being back on the practice squad. Some guys joked that it was like me being gone forever. Then, when Ben (Roethlisberger) went down and Mason going down with the concussion and getting thrown in, it’s crazy. Even from the beginning, just coming here on a tryout. Five years from now, 10 years, if I’m still playing in the NFL, this whole story about who I am, just shows with hard work and confidence, belief in yourself, you can accomplish your dreams."
Whether this dream has a Hollywood ending or not, well, that remains to be seen.
Hodges has the confidence in himself that it will. After all, he broke Steve McNair's FCS record for career passing yards and won the Walter Payton Award in his final season at Samford as the top player in that sub-division of college football.
He's thrown the football and played football -- a lot. He attempted nearly 1,900 passes in his four seasons at Samford. He's accustomed to having the ball in his hands.
That's why the nervousness, the trepidation some young quarterbacks show, isn't there when it comes to Hodges. He's not supposed to be here. But he's doing what he has been doing since he threw that first touchdown pass at 5.
"They get to me in some things," he said of nerves. "When it comes to football, I always prepare to be the guy. That’s why when I was thrown out there, I wasn’t nervous. I was prepared and confident. The nerves, I might just do a better job at hiding them."
Even if he can't hide from the media or the catcalls from his teammates any longer.
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