Devlin 'Duck' Hodges walked into the crowd of media members within the Steelers locker room with a big smile on his face. Asking the first question, "who wants to go first?" Hodges started his reign as the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Definitely excited, it's another opportunity to go out there and play with a great group of guys," Hodges said. "I'm just ready to do what it takes to win this week."
Hodges' job this week is simple - don't kill the Steelers. Head coach Mike Tomlin kept it simple when discussing why Pittsburgh decided to go with Hodges this week. They believe he's giving them a better chance to stay alive, and that's as straight-forward of a job as any.
"It's as simple as taking care of the ball and doing whatever it takes to win," Hodges said.
Hodges has seen the growth in himself since his first NFL start. Against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6, Hodges completed 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers beat the Chargers 24-17 on the west coast.
"I definitely think I'm better just for the simple fact that I feel like each and every day I can get better," Hodges said. "My first start was, it was my first start. You know, there's a lot of room. It's one of those things where, each and every day I try to go to practice and get better and go back to enjoying the game and having fun."
The Steelers, the fans and Hodges know exactly what situation this quarterback is in. An undrafted rookie out of Samford, who didn't make the initial 53-man roster in Pittsburgh, only to be signed back because of a trade and ended up the starting quarterback of the Steelers after their craziest season in recent memory.
It's no coincidence he is where he is. He knows it. The newest leader of this offense has climbed his way through every obstacle to be the starting quarterback of a 6-5 football team competing for the playoffs. Still, his play isn't changing.
"I think a lot of it is that I don't have anything to lose," Hodges said. "I was undrafted. One of it, it's something I've always been; I've always been calm, cool and collected. I think a lot of that comes from getting prepared and being prepared. We've got some guys around me that, as good as they are, that can block up front and make the catches, run the ball, it makes my job a little easier."
Hodges is playing as the 'underdog' for a team who's been an underdog every week. A group of players who have fought their way back from the unthinkable to put the fait of their season in their own hands.
His teammates are reacting well to this underdog mentality. The rookie who shouldn't be here, is, and the Steelers have felt the energy every time he's walked on the field.
"I would say so, just a little bit," Hodges replied when asked if the team connects because of the 'undergod' role. "You go back to training camp, it's nice to see those guys; undrafted, small school, come out and throw it around. So yeah, I think so."
Hodges has been ready for his moment in the spotlight all season. Working behind Mason Rudolph, Hodges remained ready. The Steelers offense has struggled to find stars this season, but their new quarterback knows the talent they have, and is looking forward to putting them in a place to be ready to win.
"It just goes back to being prepared and taking what the defense gives," Hodges said. "Just like you said, our defense is playing really good right now. Just not turn the ball over. Obviously we want to go in there and score every drive, but it's about taking care of the ball and doing whatever it takes to win."
This preparation is what Hodges prides himself on. Waiting for his moment, Duck never took a day off. Instead, he was preparing for when his name was called.
"When I wasn't the guy, I still prepared like I was going to be the guy," Hodges said. "I think that shows, when I was thrown in there, why I was successful."