Here is a great story to talk with your sons about: Zach Hodges, an African-American senior at Harvard University, is one of the top small college draft picks for the upcoming NFL draft. While NFL pundits don’t believe he will go early in the draft, they think he has a good chance of getting picked by an NFL team. Zach’s impressive performance on the football field has won him many awards in college, including Ivy League Defensive player of the year for the last two years (sharing it with a Princeton player in 2014). But what makes this story really great is what he had to overcome to get to this point.
Born in Queens, NY, Hodges lost his father when he was 1 and lost his grandfather (who helped rear him after his father died) just as he began high school. His mother remarried briefly when he was 8 to a man he describes as “mentally abusive”. When they split, his mother juggled multiple jobs to make ends meet, but periodically had trouble doing so, and during those tough times Hodges and his mom would be temporarily homeless. But they persevered. As Hodges told the NY Times in a profile found here, “Homelessness usually wouldn’t last long. My mom would try to figure something out.”
When he was 16, his mother collapsed and died of a massive stroke one day as he was about to leave for school. Devastated, Hodges went to live with relatives in North Carolina, and bounced around three different high schools in three years before ending up at the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy for his senior year. From there he went on to play football for Harvard.
How did he manage to soldier on through all of this loss and isolation and achieve so greatly? “People look at my life and say, ‘How could someone be so strong?’ he told the Times. “In actuality, I don’t really feel there is a choice in strength. Sometimes you don’t have an option but to keep moving and not stop.”
We parents often wonder how to motivate our young sons, how to make sure they are able to deal with the difficulties life will throw their way, how to ensure they won’t just give up in the face of adversity. Zach Hodges’ story, the story of a young man who when faced with tremendous adversity determined he had to “keep moving and not stop” is a great and motivational one to tell them.
We all hope Zach Hodges has a great career in football ahead of him. But whatever profession awaits him, we are confident he will do his best to succeed in it. Go Zach!!!