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As football player and later coach, Hodgin was a tough Old Dog

One of the toughest players I ever saw perform between our beloved Bricks was Jay Lynn Hodgin.

Red Bullock, an assistant coach Hodgin's senior year and head coach my junior and senior years, once said, in his unique drawl, that "Hodgin could chew up a 10-penny nail and spit out a barbed wire fence." That's tough. I've used that same expression to describe some of my players over the years, but not many.

Hodgin played quarterback for most of his career in Thomson, but when Fred Bowers moved to town in 1970 with his son Buck as quarterback, No. 10 moved to halfback. He never looked back. As a senior, he rushed for over 1,000 yards in only eight games as he missed two because of an injury.

In the 1970s, most football teams at all levels weren't featuring just one back, so carries were split between two or maybe even three guys. That made rushing for 1,000 yards harder than it is today.

Also, if you didn't win the region, and Thomson lost a heartbreaker to Statesboro to finish second, you didn't go to the playoffs. In that era, many good 9-1 teams stayed home, as Thomson did that year. Now, often, teams with losing records make the playoffs and statistics are based on longer seasons.

Hodgin signed with the South Carolina Gamecocks after his stellar career at Thomson. Freshmen were still ineligible for varsity play when Hodgin arrived in Columbia, but after three seasons, according to the 2010 media guide, he was their second all-time leading rusher and still ranks seventh on the list, with 2,478 yards. Every player ahead of him played four varsity seasons.

Even though running backs have since had four-year careers, Hodgin still ranks in the top 10 all-time in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns (22) and all-purpose yards. He led the team in rushing in 1972, 1973, and 1974 and even once returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. He was Most Valuable Player in the 1974 Blue-Gray All-Star game and was a ninth- round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, a serious knee injury in training camp ended his NFL dream and Hodgin returned to this area and worked in the banking industry before entering high school coaching.

Here's an interesting tidbit. While with the Packers, he was in camp with Alan Autry, aka "Bubba," who starred in the hit television show In the Heat of the Night.

After serving as an assistant at Evans under fellow McDuffie County native Dexter Poss, Hodgin was a head coach for nine seasons at Jenkins County, Monticello and Thomson. He compiled a very respectable 62-37-1 record, winning region titles in 1987 at Monticello and Thomson in 1992. I was privileged to be his defensive coordinator during his stint here, and I couldn't have asked to work for a better man. It was tough to follow coach Luther Welsh, but Hodgin handled the challenge with class and dignity and worked hard through the challenges he faced. Hodgin left coaching after the 1992 season and entered the insurance business. I'm proud to call him my friend and while he doesn't talk much about his great career as a player, he and I still like to tell, or should I say retell, stories about our two years coaching together and some of the characters we have been associated with in that profession. He is, without a doubt, one of the great Old Dogs.

John Barnett has played, observed and coached Thomson athletics for 45 years.

Web posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011

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