Mountain Pointe’s Rashion Hodge knew at a young age that he was destined to be a linebacker.
He heard stories about his father playing it at South Mountain High and he saw his older brother, Rashie, transform into one of the best linebackers in the state as a senior for the Pride in 2016.
Rashie went on to play for South Dakota State but has since transferred to Glendale Community College as a running back.
With his brother back in the Valley, Rashion uses Rashie as a resource for advice, and it seems to be working.
“I picked a lot up from my brother,” Rashion said. “He taught me how to work hard. He had to work his way up to where he was. He worked hard and made a name for himself on varsity.”
Now a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, it’s Rashion who is starting to make a name for himself.
Through the Pride’s first three games, Hodge leads the Pride with 23 tackles, including one for a loss and a safety against Mountain View.
Last Saturday, Hodge and the Pride took on national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th, in the Polynesian Classic in Henderson, Nevada. Despite the 21-14 loss, Hodge registered 11 tackles.
It’s not easy for a junior to take control of an experienced defense.
“He is becoming a leader in the right way and that’s what we look forward to,” Mountain Pointe linebackers coach Brandon Whitener said. “He is already barking at guys if they line up in the wrong spot. That’s a good thing because he knows what is going on around him and will help him play even faster.”
Hodge has speed and range. His ability to run from sideline to sideline and maintain his balance while making a hit are traits that have jumped out to Whitener and the rest of the coaching staff in their first season at Mountain Pointe.
Beyond that, it’s Hodge’s length. His long arms give him the ability to shed an opposing blocker and make a play.
“You look at him and without bending over he can almost scratch his knee caps,” Whitener said, laughing. “That’s a long kid, and being able to run and still move and work in space is impressive.”
It’s been a seamless transition for Hodge under new head coach Rich Wellbrock and his staff.
Along with Whitener, Hodge has learned the Pride’s new defense from coordinator Conrad Hamilton, who spent six years in the NFL as a defensive back.
From the style of coaching to the overall scheme, Hodge said he feels like there is a new vibe about the Mountain Pointe program, one that will lead to success.
“We have a different level of coaching now,” Hodge said. “There is more of a college feel here now. Coach Hamilton knows how colleges and pros work and we know that we need to listen to him because he has the experience.
“I’ve learned a lot from him and Coach Whitener, like breaking down in pass coverage and foot work.”
Only three games into his first varsity season, Hodge has yet to receive a Division 1 college offer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t schools interested. They’re waiting to see how Hodge pans out. Hodge said the Oregon State coaching staff, where former Pride players Timmy Hernandez and Wesley Payne play, has expressed interest.
Whitener, however, hopes Hodge remains under the radar for the duration of the season. He believes that would allow Hodge to further improve.
“As a first-year starter, it can put a lot of pressure on a kid to perform, especially coming after his brother, who had a lot of success at Mountain Pointe,” Whitener said. “Right now, I just want him to be his own guy and understand what he needs to do with this defense. I want him to carve out his own path as far as what his future is going to entail.”
Exactly what his path is remains to be seen, but with coaches in place who want him to succeed, as well as an older brother sharing advice from his time playing the same position, Hodge is on the path to becoming one of the best linebackers in the class of 2020 in Arizona.
Before that, he has another goal in mind.
“I’m just trying to execute and work hard,” Hodge said. “I want to be the hardest-working man on the field and get my team to the championship.”