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‘Energy guy’ Rashie Hodge Jr. making most of opportunity at Arizona

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Photo by Mike Mattina/Arizona Athletics

Rashie Hodge Jr. only played nine snaps in Arizona’s season-opener vs. BYU, but he made the most of it, earning the highest Pro Football Focus grade on the team (77.5).

The New Mexico State transfer logged two tackles, including a big stop that resulted in the safety that helped the Wildcats quickly trim a 21-3 deficit to 21-13 in the fourth quarter.

UA defensive tackle Trevon Mason blew up the BYU offensive line and Hodge bolted into the backfield to wrap up the ballcarrier in the end zone.

“I had the easy part,” Hodge said. “Tre did all the work.”

Run-stuffing has been Hodge’s specialty for the Wildcats so far, but he is willing to do anything the coaching staff asks of him. He describes his playing style as versatile and aggressive.

Or as defensive coordinator Don Brown put it, “He runs to the football with his hair on complete fire.”

Hodge tries to shed some of that on his teammates, calling himself “the energy guy.”

“I just like to get after it,” Hodge said. “I love playing the game and I come into the game with a mindset that nobody can stop me and nobody will stop me. I come into the game with the mindset that I gotta do whatever to help my team win. If that’s taking on blocks, if that’s blitzing, if that’s covering, it doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s helping the team, I’m gonna do it.”

Even though the Wildcats fell short against BYU, Hodge had a blast being on a football field again. It was his first game since Nov. 2019. (New Mexico State opted out of the 2020 fall season due to COVID concerns.)

Hodge describes himself as a positive person, but being away from the game for that long caused him to get down on himself.

“It was like, ‘damn I miss football.’ ... I really missed the game,” he said. “Football is one of the biggest parts of my life and not having it around for a year made me realize how much I love the game, how much the game is impactful to me in my life and my family. And it’s just something in my heart about football that won’t go away.”

In the same way, Hodge has always had an affinity for the University of Arizona, even though he grew up in Phoenix, smack dab in the middle of ASU territory.

“I’m really not a big fan of the team up north,” Hodge said. “Out of high school I always wanted to come here. ... I couldn’t even tell you (why). It’s just something I felt in my heart.”

Arizona didn’t offer Hodge out of high school. Only South Dakota State and some junior colleges did.

The lack of interest had nothing to do with his football skills. Hodge played three seasons at Mountain Pointe High School and helped the Pride reach the 6A state championship game in 2016, racking up 60 tackles with 8.5 for loss and one sack that season. He also rushed for 383 yards and four touchdowns.

“I talked to plenty of schools, it was just grades, not taking care of my business as a student athlete,” Hodge said. “I was thinking more of as an athlete and not a student.”

Hodge didn’t qualify for South Dakota State, so he went the JuCo route, attending Glendale Community College for two years. Hodge credits former head coach Jason Jewell for developing his game and putting him on the radar of Division I scouts.

Hodge landed at New Mexico State, where in 2019 he ranked second on the team in tackles (90), including 10 for loss. He also forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles, broke up two passes and intercepted another.

Hodge entered the transfer portal in September 2020 and Arizona reached out. Hodge knew it was the right place for him even though he would have to accept being a walk-on.

“I knew with my skill set, I’ll be able to make an impact, either on scout team or on first team, it doesn’t matter,” Hodge said. “I knew I was going to be able to help the team win somehow, some way. I know my energy is very positive. Always got to stay positive, always gotta see everything and make sure you never get negative. You can’t think negative. You think negative, negative things happen.”

Hodge graduated from New Mexico State in June with a degree in Individualized Studies and is now enrolled in a grad program at Arizona, his dream school. Hodge expects a large contingent of friends and family to make the drive down I-10 for Saturday’s home opener against San Diego State.

Hodge played so well against BYU that he could have a bigger role against the Aztecs. At this point, he’s just happy to be a Wildcat.

“I have four little brothers and a sister and I have a lot of little cousins that look up to me, I know I have to be a role model to them,” Hodge said. “There’s not many positive role models and me being the oldest, I had to realize that people are looking up to me, and I really need to strap down and do what I can to provide for them and help them understand and help them realize now that we can do anything we want, we can make it out in any situation. It’s never too late to change your ways.”