Hodgins brothers OSU's new dynamic duo
CORVALLIS — Nearly a decade ago, brothers James and Jacquizz Rodgers came to Oregon State from Richmond, Texas, and led the Beavers to some of their greatest heights ever on the gridiron.
Now meet Isaiah and Isaac Hodgins, the Rodgers Brothers 2.0.
The Hodgins may not wind up having the same kind of impact on the OSU program as "Quizz" and "Quon," but they are off to a good start.
Isaiah, a 6-4, 210-pound sophomore, ranks as the Beavers' leading receiver after the first month of the season with 22 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns.
Isaac, 6-foot and 265 pounds, is starting at defensive end as a true freshman and has 12 tackles to his credit.
"After Isaiah made the decision to go to Oregon State, I didn't know if Isaac would follow suit," says their father, James Hodgins. "But deep down, they grew up hoping they would play at the same place. They wanted to form a legacy at a university together the way the Rodgers brothers did at Oregon State."
Isaiah is just glad his younger brother joined him a year after he came to OSU. The Hodgins boys rent a house in Corvallis with teammate Artavis Pierce.
"Isaac and I are really close," Isaiah says. "We've been on the same team our whole lives until last year. So it's cool to have him back on my team."
It's no surprise that the Hodgins brothers love football. James Hodgins played at San Jose State and then eight years as a 6-1, 275-pound fullback in the NFL from 1999 to 2006, playing on two Super Bowl teams with St. Louis, including the Rams' 2000 championship team as a rookie.
The Hodgins boys were young when their father retired from the NFL, but Isaiah carries memories from those years when James was playing.
"Most boys want to be like their dad," Isaiah says. "So I grew up with the game of football. I've been playing ever since I was able to run. My brother and I learned to love it.
"I remember most Dad's time with the Cardinals (2003-05), being around players such as Emmett Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin. You don't realize it at the time, but as you get older, you think, 'Dang, I used to hang out with those guys.'
"Before and after games, we'd get to run around on the field. It was a cool experience. That's something I'd love to give to my kids some day."
The Hodgins are a trifle more than a year apart in age. Isaiah turns 20 on Oct. 21. Isaac turns 19 on Oct. 26. (Oregon State would not allow Isaac to be interviewed for this article, citing coach Jonathan Smith's policy, which prohibits media from interviewing true freshmen.) James and his wife, Stephanie, also have a daughter, Imoni, age 10.
There was a friendly rivalry between Isaiah and Isaac growing up, but they were very supportive of each other, their father says.
"They were best friends, but they had the normal brother stuff going on," says James, 41, who lives in the East Bay city of Oakley, California. "There was a lot of arguing and fighting we had to deal with. Broken furniture, that sort of thing. We wouldn't have it any other way if we were to do it again. They were great kids.
"Whatever your big brother does, you're always trying to prove you can do it as good or better. So there was that with Isaac. But they got along very well, and they both had amazing work ethic in getting better as football players."
James is in his sixth season as head coach at Berean Christian High in nearby Walnut Creek, so he coached both of his sons. Isaiah was the more highly sought after college prospect, drawing scholarship offers from most of Pac-12 schools along with such programs as Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue. He initially verbally committed to Washington State the summer before his senior year. After de-committing, Isaiah narrowed his choices down to Oregon State, Oregon, Nebraska, Colorado and Washington before choosing OSU late in his senior season at Berean Christian.
"It was where I felt most comfortable," Isaiah says. "I knew some of the players in the program already. On my visit, it felt like home to me. My dad helped me break it down. We were looking at offenses to help you get to the NFL, at schools that have had receivers who went to the NFL. Oregon State has had a lot of them. I'm a big family guy. I didn't want to go too far away from home.
"My dad said, 'Any college you go to, you're getting a free education, you're going to play football. Just go where the gut feeling is.' That was Corvallis. I knew this was the place for me."
Isaiah was recruited by Smith's predecessor, Gary Andersen. Isaiah liked Andersen and his staff, but made his decision based more on the school and the community. That turned out to be a good thing when Andersen departed midway through last season. The Beavers wound up with interim coach Cory Hall finishing out the second half of a 1-11 season.
Hodgins was a starter and the team's No. 2 receiver with 31 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He hauled in the winning 17-yard TD pass from Jake Luton in the Beavers' only win — 35-32 over Portland State — but the season was still a difficult experience.
"We made it to the league championship game my last two years (at Berean Christian) and went 12-1 my senior year," Isaiah says. "Going from that to 1-11 was really tough, knowing you can't control much of anything. But in a way, I'm glad I went through it. I learned a lot from it."
Isaac had also given a verbal commitment to the Andersen regime — he was the first commit of the 2018 recruiting class — and then signed after Smith flew to meet with the family at their home to firm up the commitment before letter-of-intent day. Isaac, a 3.8 student at Berean Christian, didn't get the big-time offers his brother had.
"We were hoping he'd go the Ivy League route at Yale," James says. The University of San Diego was another possibility.
"Isaac was an under-recruited kid, and a lot of that had to do with coaches who thought he'd go to Oregon State," his father says. "He wanted to play in a Power Five conference, to play with and against the best. As soon as Oregon State offered him, he said, 'That's where I want to go.' He wanted to be with his brother, leave a legacy and get a great education."
"I loved the coaches who initially recruited me, but for me, it's not all about the staff," Isaac told the Portland Tribune after letter-of-intent day in February. "It's about the place, whether I'll be able to play early in my career, and if the school can develop me to be the best player I can be. I felt that was Oregon State.
"It's reassuring to know that Isaiah is here and we're in it together, but I took a lot of other things into consideration. I love the campus. I love the fact that it's a college town. The facilities are awesome. And I'll have a chance to play early here."
James says at most of the other colleges his sons were considering, head coaches or coordinators or position coaches have been replaced.
"Almost no matter where they'd have gone, they'd have a new coach right now," James says. "Isaiah really liked Nebraska, and now (Mike) Riley and Dan Van De Riet and the guys we loved there are at Oregon State.
"When you're being recruited, you have to choose the school first. What I was most proud of was that my boys did a great job of looking at the entire picture and determining where the best place would be to go to school for four years, to be in a community."
James added another thought: "Both of those kids have an underdog mentality. 'Where can I go to leave my mark? Where can I go and really help a place succeed and turn it around.' That was a big factor for both of them."
The Hodgins are of strong Christian faith, as exemplified by the tattoos on Isaiah's body.
The most noticeable one is the "King of Kings" on his right arm, a reference to Jesus Christ. On the right side of his chest is Psalm 23, "the first (bible) verse I memorized as a kid." On the left side is 1 John 5:5: "Who is that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God."
On his forearm: "Fear God."
"People misinterpret that," Isaiah says. "It actually means having a respect."
Which is precisely what the Hodgins family has for Smith and his coaching staff.
"Last year was a tough year for everybody," James says. "Coach Smith has been a blessing and a complete answer to prayers. We're in love with what they're doing down there and excited for the future.
"You look at all the young players making big contributions, making plays for them. It's scary to think about where they could be in two years."
Isaiah had a breakout game in a 37-35 loss at Nevada, catching 14 passes for 200 yards and two scores. He tied the school single-game receptions record co-held by former Biletnikoff Trophy winners Mike Hass and Brandin Cooks.
"We've always known he's had that ability," James says. "I honestly felt he could have had games like that last year. It just didn't click. He didn't get the opportunity.
"More importantly, we have been impressed with the offense as a whole this season. We're excited for our son to be doing well, but he's in an offense that is extremely productive, lighting up the scoreboard and offering a lot of hope for the future."
Before the Nevada game, James told his son to write down his goals for the game. The result: "115 yards and a touchdown." Isaiah undersold himself.
"That's a wide receiver's dream, being the centerpoint of a game," Isaiah says. "Now, I want to do anything I can to help the team win. I want to go over 100 (yards) for every game. I want to score a lot of touchdowns.
"When it's crunch-time moments, when we need a big play, I want the offense to come to me. I pray for those moments. I live for those moments. It was like that in high school. I've always wanted the ball. I want to be consistent. I want to put the Pac-12 on notice that I'm looking for more games like that."
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren considers Isaiah a playmaker.
"I like his length and his ability to go get the ball in the air," Lindgren says. "He is able to adjust and separate from a defender and go make a play. Speed is not his biggest strength, but he can be physical, and he understands route-running and separation. That's what you want from a bigger guy."
OSU receivers coach Kefense Hynson recruited Isaiah while Hynson was at the University of Hawaii.
"When I heard he got the (OSU) job, I texted him right away," Isaiah says. "He said, 'Yeah, man, I'm going to be your coach.' It was meant to be all along. He is really smart. I've learned a whole lot from him."
"I knew Isaiah was a special talent," Hynson says. "Good size, great ball skills, good work ethic, great family. He's a really good kid — mild-mannered, mature, good sense of humor, great demeanor and football intelligence. He's fun to be around, fun to coach.
"The thing now for Isaiah is to be consistent. When you're a talented player, be that guy every day. That's all you can ask for as a coach."
Isaiah has enjoyed the offensive system employed by the OSU coaches this season.
"They're doing a great job," he says. "They've given us (receivers) a lot of plays where we have a lot of freedom to show off our athletic ability. We use the technique we've been taught to go out there and be ballplayers."
Both Hodgins boys graduated early from high school and enrolled at OSU for winter term. When Isaiah arrived in January 2017, he weighed 205 pounds.
"The strength coaches have helped me get faster and stronger so I can break those arm tackles," he says. "This year, my body fat is down 6.2 percent, and I've gained five pounds of muscle. I'm looking to keep gaining good weight. I haven't been timed in the 40, but from the catapults we wear at practice and seeing the miles per hour we run, I can tell this is the fastest I've ever been."
Isaac, meanwhile, is built more like his father.
"I don't know where Isaiah came from," James says with a chuckle. "My grandfather was 6-2, my dad was tall, but my wife's mom is really tall and her brother is 6-3. We think it's a recessive gene that came out somehow."
Isaac was an animal on the D-line for his father at Berean Christian, setting school records for career tackles (282), tackles-for-loss (70) and sacks (31). As a senior, he had 98 tackles and 33 1/2 tackles-for-loss. Isaac arrived in Corvallis this January to get accustomed to college life and the OSU program. His desire to play early came to fruition when probable starter Jeromy Reicher went down to a knee injury in training camp.
"I knew Isaac would do well, but I don't know that I expected he would start right away," his father says. "To play at all as a true freshman at any line position is extraordinary. Graduating early helped him learn the system — there is a big jump from high school — and gave him a chance to start."
James laughs at how fun it has been to watch Beaver games this season.
"Last year, we'd watch Isaiah on offense, and then the defense would come on," he says. "We knew some of the guys out there, but now Isaac is one of them — that keeps the game more exciting as a parent.
"It's a blessing to have them both at the same school. Plus, all their friends are amazing. Corvallis is amazing. We couldn't imagine a better place for our kids to be. We're so happy they made that decision to go there. We were big proponents of Corvallis, but they had to make that decision on their own. That they did made us proud as parents."
Berean Christian played its homecoming game against Concord on Friday night. Afterward, James, Stephanie and their daughter piled into their car and drove the eight hours to Corvallis to watch Oregon State play Arizona. After the game, they headed for the condo in Newport they bought a year ago for 24 hours or so of relaxation.
"That's our getaway place," James says. "Some friends told us about it. We weren't looking to buy a place, but the price was right, it's right on the water — it's beautiful. We spend a lot of time in Corvallis, and it's close.
"We try to make it up every weekend the Beavers play at home. We drive up, catch a game and get a little beach vacation in afterward."
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