In Harvard football’s first home game of the season, freshman defensive end Zach Hodges wreaked havoc on Brown’s offense, earning the Ivy League Rookie of the Week accolade for his efforts.
Playing like a seasoned veteran, the freshman tallied three tackles, led his team with three quarterback hurries, and had a game changing forced fumble on the Harvard one-yard line.
For Hodges, this success has been a long time coming.
Because sometimes, the stats don’t tell the full story.
When Hodges was six, his father passed away. He and his mother moved from place to place, at times even battling bouts of homelessness.
During the fall of his junior year, to make matters worse, Hodges’ mother suffered a massive, fatal stroke. After her death, Hodges moved from his hometown of Charlottesville, NC, effectively “drop[ping] everything” in his life to move to Atlanta.
The move—which came in the middle of his junior year in high school—was challenging for Hodges, who naturally found difficulty in understanding the hardships he faced and was unsure of his future.
“He has faced more adversity than 98 percent of the students at Harvard,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said.
Through it all, Hodges’ unshakable faith has proven to be a main constant in his life and is a force that has enabled him to overcome personal hardship.
In the sixth grade, when Hodges was facing various difficulties, he turned to Christianity to help guide him and deal with his experiences.
“I am a pretty religious person, and my personal relationship with Christ is probably the biggest thing,” Hodges said. “I know that God has a purpose ... I don’t know what is best, so I need to sit back and trust God.”
Hodges’ faith ultimately allowed him to settle down and have a good junior year of football.
Though the 6’3, 220-pound freshman began his football career at what he considered the “late” age of nine and called himself an “okay” player who simply enjoyed the game, his high school stats speak for themselves.
In nine games during his senior year, he earned 21 sacks and forced 10 fumbles.
His stellar play in high school made him a hot commodity to college coaches, and over 25 schools recruited him. Ultimately, it was the strong academic environment that influenced Hodges to choose Harvard.