KhaDarel Hodge spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, and will face his old team when the Detroit Lions visit FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday. He stopped to answer five questions for the Free Press this week.
Tell me about your name. What’s the origin of KhaDarel?
I think it was really like my mom coming up with something. I’m a twin. I have a twin sister. Her name is KhaDijah and I came out after her. I was a boy, so I guess they wanted to put something as close as they could and it’s KhaDarel. I have yet today to find another KhaDarel so I kind of think of it as a unique name.
Amon-Ra said he believes in the power of having a unique name. Do you find that to be the case, too?
Oh yeah, I love it. I can never get confused with anybody else, so I mean, when somebody says KhaDarel, I know they’re talking about me.
The first college you went to was Alcorn State, and you were a quarterback back in the day. So give me the scouting report on you as a QB, and what type of influence was Steve McNair on you going to Alcorn?
That’s my cousin, actually.
Get out of here.
Yeah, that’s part of the reason I went there, to try to do what he did. And yeah, I actually played quarterback my whole life up until I (moved) to receiver. My quarterback skills are up there now. They won’t put me out there but I can really sling it. I’m pretty much a dual threat but I can really put it in the air. If they give me a chance, then I can show them that, but until then it’s always in the back pocket. But I really can sling it. And, yeah, I went to Alcorn my freshman year and then went to junior college after.
So how big of an impact did McNair’s success have on you?
I never really met him in that way. I probably seen him like once or twice. When I was a kid he was actually playing. He was in Tennessee or Baltimore or what not. I only know he was a relative through other relatives. I actually never really got to sit down with him as a younger guy and talk to him.
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Having him in your family, did you aspire to be like him?
Oh yeah, he was definitely someone I looked up to as a young quarterback. It was either Steve or Michael Vick. It was either/or with those guys, and him being from Mississippi and also being like 20 minutes from my hometown, it really meant a lot to us growing up back home.
Cleveland, this week. You played two seasons there and I heard you were a fan favorite there for your work on special teams, so give me your best Dawg Pound story.
Oh, man. I think it may have been biggest hit when I was on kickoff. I think we was playing — first of all, it was the biggest hit of my life. I never hit no one like that, ever. I was kind of surprised myself. But it was covering on kickoff, we were playing the Ravens and I came down as the five (position on kickoff cover; the cover man nearest the kicker) and I like blew De’Anthony Thomas up, which was something else cause I was like, man, that’s De’Anthony Thomas, somebody else I used to watch highlights on. I’m talking about, lit him up. And I was like, ‘Bruh, did I just do that?’
That was one of the best moments, and also when we went to the playoffs last year, that was unreal. We had the whole city of Cleveland just really behind us and it was really just something like you live for. You would have thought we won the Super Bowl or something. If we had fans last year then Cleveland would have been on fire.
You’ve got respect for the Dawg Pound.
Oh yeah. They showed me love. The love was mutual for sure.
I’m going to have to look that hit up on YouTube.
Look it up. Bruh, if you follow me on my Instagram, yeah, that’s the biggest hit I ever had. I don’t know why it didn’t get enough publicity, but I really blew him up. You’ll see.
There’s a human element to football that people sometimes forget about, so what is like to get cut?
Oh man. Yeah, it’s tough, man. Mentally, it’s tough, because now you’re right back to what now? It feels like you don’t really know where you’re going to go. You got to go back and talk to agents and see what system best fits you, what team best fits you. It feels like the people you trusted at that time, like they don’t want you and right now you’re just lost and you’re trying to find another home. As the years went by, I kind of really just took my feelings out of the game as far as that because if you let it bother you mentally then it’ll tear you apart. …
There’s actually a human side, especially if you’ve got family and you moved all your family out here and now y’all got to, in a day or two or in a week, find another place to live. It’s more than just, “I got cut, now I’m on this team.” It’s more behind closed doors what’s really going on. So yeah, it’s a lot mentally, I can say that.
Last thing. Thanksgiving is next week. What was your Thanksgiving tradition growing up?
I actually would start the morning on my mom’s side and we’d all come together, probably about 20-plus of us and we’d all come together and eat and talk and just laugh and have fun. And later on in the evening I’d go eat again at my dad’s side down the street, and that was more of the games and the eating and we was doing a lot of fun games, like Taboo. It gets real competitive on that side. Yeah, it’s always a lot of fun on Thanksgiving, cause I know the family’s going to come together and we’re going to do our thing.
Turkey? Pumpkin pie? What was on the menu?
Turkey, for sure. Ham. Macaroni, Chicken, Greens. Cornbread. Sweet potato pie, for sure. Also my grandma used to make — we never could find a name for it, cause we called it the blueberry stuff. She used to always make that for me. She knew that’s the main thing I wanted as desert. It was like — we never knew the name for it. It was like blueberry cream, graham crackers. I don’t know, it was good. And my mom and them try to make it till today for me whenever they know I’m coming home. So that’s always special, too.