How Johnny Hodges Went From Transfer Portal Purgatory To Leading TCU’s Defense

From “not good enough” to the national championship.

Johnny Hodges TCU

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On a team full of unlikely stories, TCU linebacker Johnny Hodges might have the unlikeliest. 

In 2021, Hodges was unhappy at the United States Naval Academy. The standout high school athlete left the Navy Midshipmen in the middle of the season and entered the college football portal. Weeks and weeks went by and all Hodges received was silence. He was, as one team put it, “not good enough.”

Discouraged, he told his father that his football days were over.

“At the end of the day I’m a realist,” Hodges, who originally committed to the Naval Academy to play lacrosse, told The New York Times. “So when I wasn’t hearing anything back and I was reaching out to every school, twice, and reaching out to F.C.S. schools and I wasn’t hearing back, I was like, you know what? Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

But that wasn’t how it was supposed to be for the Maryland native. Last January, Hodges accepted a scholarship offer from TCU’s newly hired defensive coordinator, Joe Gillespie, who remembered him from when he coached at Tulsa.

“I got to watch enough of him to sit there and say, I want a guy like that in our room,” Gillespie told the Times.

Hodges, who had never been to Texas before, packed up his car and made the long drive to Fort Worth.

Now, a year later, Hodges leads the Horned Frogs’ defense in tackles. And in just a few hours, he and his teammates will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the national championship.

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like real life, coming from where I came from,” Hodges told the Times.

Hodges and No. 3 TCU will take on No. 1 Georgia tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET. Tune in to ESPN to watch the Horned Frogs attempt to win the program's first national title in 83 years as the Bulldogs try to bring home back-to-back national titles.

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