Trip already explained the reason for the name of our new column. He told you the genesis of the statement as it came from Coach Randy Hodges. There isn't too much to add to what he said about those experiences, but I do have some things to add about Hodgie Baby in general.
Yeah, he might be surprised to hear it, but behind his back we often called him "Hodgie Baby." Probably because he ended every third sentence with the word "Baby." I don't know. But though it more than likely started as a term of derision (what football player doesn't hate his coach during two a days), it quickly became a term of endearment.
Hodges did something that I thought impossible. He took a group of barely talented small town high school guys (from football crazy Texas, no less) who had visions of scoring touchdowns and other such things and caused us to love being a lineman. Trip was modest in his comments earlier. He was first team all-district our senior year. I wasn't quite so good, I only made second team all-district. (Caveat - I was the only center in our entire district to make EITHER 1st or 2nd team).
I don't know if Trip remembers this or not, but before he was switched to Tight End, (he was still one of those elitist WRs then), I approached Hodges and told him that I wanted to switch to TE. At the time, the guys we had lining up there were bums. Hodges looked at me in the eye, smiled, and said, "If you really want to try, I will let you. But before you decide that, let me tell you what I hope you will do. I want you to stay at Center. You have quick feet and if you will listen to what I tell you, you will be all-district." Now, my dad had always raised me to do what the coach said, so I told him that if he thought I could help the team more as Center, then I would stay there. I don't know if he was just trying to pump me up, trick me into staying at Center or really thought I could be all-district. But whatever, because it worked.
After High School, Trip and I attended a small private college in far West Texas for awhile. It just so happened that Hodges followed. After our first year of college, he moved to a little town only 10 miles away from our new location. We started hanging out together, since we were no longer his students. We got to be really good friends. We would go spend many weekends with he and his growing family (he had a daughter while at our hometown and added two sons later). They were gracious and never complained about the encroaching college students.
After our army stint, Trip and I ended up in a different town half way across Texas from where we had been. Lo and behold, Hodges lived only 30 minutes away or so. Again we started hanging out and spending time with his family. Then we all started spreading out. Trip ended up in NY (after several other stops in between). I ended up in VA (after very many stops in between, including Europe), and I honestly don't know exactly where Hodges is right now. I talked to him about 6 years ago on the phone. His knees deteriorated so badly that he needs knee replacements, but the doctors don't want to do that yet because he is still so young (He is probably only 5 or 6 years older than us, but it didn't seem so in HS). He can no longer run and has to wear special shoes, just to make it through the day.
But I do know this. Trip and I are better men than we would have been had Coach Randy Hodges not been a part of our lives. He taught us to work hard and enjoy doing a good job, regardless of whatever accolades are flung your way. He had learned the hard way that fame is fleeting and for a sports star it is only there when you are producing on the field. His body let him down (though we should state here that when he first tore up his knee, he played the entire rest of the game on it and didn't realize the true extent of the damage until afterwards). Truly, in the world of football, no one in our past can lay claim to being more important in our development and so he rightly deserves the dubious honor of being the man behind the title of our new column.
If he happens to read this, I hope he knows how much we appreciate him and all he did for us over the years. I also hope he appreciates the title "Wheres My 2X4?". The final thing I will say is that he always held our respect. Even when we were no longer his students/players, we called him "Coach." When I talked to him 6 years ago, I called him "Coach." If I ever talk to him again, you can bank on it, I will still call him "Coach." He will always be Coach - even when swinging a 2X4.