Not sure how I stumbled upon this particular article (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/sports/football/harvard-prospect-zach-hodges-overcomes-his-painful-past.html) but I started looking for black young players on the other side of the spectrum. Anyone ever saw the movie Unbreakable? I remember there was a line in it to describe why Samuel L Jackson began his quest. Just to give some background ( Spoiler Alert) Samuel Jackson was a person who was cursed with a disease (not sure if it is real but it was called Type I osteogenesis imperfecta) that made his bones extremely fragile. I believe he had broken everyone bone in his body. So he believed that just the way basic Bell Curves work, if he was on the one side of the spectrum, surely, there must be someone on the other side of the spectrum His obsession leads him to do some really crazy things to find that person who is the opposite of him..
Hence my quest to find a minority kid that didn’t fit the D1 or bust narrative.
Being a youth football coach, you often hear the stories of the kids, from the projects, through family drama and obstacles persevere to make it too a pro team. Kid goes to multiple schools, flunks out, get a break, ends up at Auburn (or pick your school).. gets drafted.. Makes Millions of dollars and in 4 years be completely broke.
I felt—Wow there has gotta be someone who despite their challenges, excels in school, hell even goes to an Ivy League and then ends up with a great job that has nothing to do with the NFL. Great job defined by Company and Title.. Whether they are happy with their job.. Only they can answer that.
Then I saw this article on Zach Hodges.
Here are his metrics 6’3 235 4.65 in the 40. Decent numbers for a black athlete to get looked at by the pros. He has the ‘measurables'. Park that for a moment. Zach graduated from Phillips Exeter...Just to give it context.
Phillips Exeter is one of the best high schools in the country- I know when most blacks and hear best high schools you are thinking, De La Salle, Mater Dei, Don Bosco, etc..
(https://www.exeter.edu/admissions-and-financial-aid/tuition-financial-aid ) First of all ,as of 2019 , the tuition there for Boarding students is $55k+. . Want a list of notable grads? -- https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-phillips-exeter-academy-alumni-and-students/reference.
This is one of the best ranked academic schools in the country. Even if it was a PG year, Zach ended up going to Harvard
Here are some other reasons he should have failed.
His father, Tony Hodges, died of a brain tumor when he was a year old
Millard Wright, his grandfather who he lived with, died when he was about to enter High School.
His Mother died on Sept 5, 2008 15 years to the day of the death of his father, of a massive stroke.
Zach, who started playing football at the age of 10, which according to several CTE studies ( https://time.com/5258406/cte-youth-tackle-football/ is one but google them all the articles are based on the same study) means that factor as well as being a black youth in America?? He should have been finished. No Father, No Mother, abusive Stepfather… Just start writing his obituary.. Zach Hodges Born Feb 18 1992, son of….. but to quote Lee Corso.. WAIT ONE MINUTE……..
Zach was not done. Moving in with relatives in Charlotte, he then continue his trek into Phillips Exeter and then to Harvard. He made it to the Rams Practice Sqad where he Awarded community service player award for community outreach on behalf of the organization (https://www.linkedin.com/in/zbhodges/?src=aff-lilpar&veh=aff_src.aff-lilpar_c.partners_pkw.123201_plc.adgoal%20GmbH_pcrid.449670_learning&trk=aff_src.aff-lilpar_c.partners_pkw.123201_plc.adgoal%20GmbH_pcrid.449670_learning&clickid=y3D1so0VBxyOWXEwUx0Mo38QUkn3MHWOtXwvyA0&irgwc=1)
Zach currently, according to LinkedIn is at Cabot Properties which is a private equity firm. (http://www.cabotprop.com/) where he is listed as Investment, Asset Management & Valuations Analyst.
An anomaly ? An aberration ? maybe.. But it shows that one of the lessons he learned from football is perseverance. It is one of the few life lessons you learn in this sport more so than any others. What some of us coaches label as the Football Mentality. There is no google definition of it.. so I will define it is… excuse me if I sound Lombardiish..
Football Mentality- It is the desire to overcome obstacles, whether real or perceived, to achieve a greater goal for yourself and ultimately for others( your teammates,family, friends,etc)
I tell my players all the time, this mentality is what prepares you for manhood. It is not just the game. Whether you are the best player on the team, or just a practice player ,you are committed to each other to help prepare you for life’s challenges.
This is one of my favorite Facebook Memes
Cause I tell my players.. When your wife and kids are home, you are looked upon to keep going. No one would mind if they take the time off or have to take a break but you.. Not acceptable. Do not worry that it is 90 degrees and humid or 20 degrees and windy and freezing, we have work to do for the next 2 hours. BUT when you get older YOUR team will rely on you even more. Not many sports allows a child to experience that at such a young age.
I only hope the football mentality helped Zach see there was a bigger goal for him.It appears he is on the right path.
Quest for other Unbreakables.
Without really looking hard I found 20 anomalies in the matrix. Are their stories going to be similar to Zach? We will see. I am hoping to find more. I could have cheated and picked non minorities …but I started doing research on them and it was too easy..
If youth football is causing debilitated mental injuries and CTE really negatively impact kids there is NO reason these people should be where they are.. But I would have had 200 hundred plus examples.. if I could only write that fast. But to make it interesting I am only searching for "unbreakable" minorities. If scientist and reporters are using the study on 200+ people to legitimize cancelling football.. I am hoping my 200 discoveries change a few parents minds. Although I know negatives opinions will always trump positive ones.
Most coaches will tell you, we know that less .1% of FOOTBALL players make it to the pros, but if we can make 99.9% of them better men, fathers, husbands, partners and citizens. We have done our jobs,,,