JACKSON — All running backs enjoy being “The Man.”
There”s something about getting the call nearly every snap and carrying the expectations of your team that drives running backs to soldier through the toughest defenses.
The effects of that assignment on any level can leave even the strongest and most well-conditioned skill player feeling a little rundown.
Victor Hodges didn”t necessarily covet that feeling, but it crept up on him as the 2010 season wore on. As he and the Aberdeen High School football team had more success with each game, Hodges discovered the spring in his step had a little less bounce.
That”s when Hodges turned to the recuperative powers of ice — and plenty of it.
“Man, the first time, I had to hop out of there. I couldn”t do it,” Hodges said of his decision to use a tub filled with ice to help his body. “But coach talked me into it because he said it would help me get my legs back under me. He was right. It really does.”
Hodges opted in the middle of the season to immerse himself in tubs of icy water after practices and games helped rejuvenate his body and sparked the return of the high-stepping, hard-running Hodges everyone saw at the beginning of the season.
Hodges will be sure to take at least one more dip in the water this week before Aberdeen (14-1) takes on Forest (14-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi Memorial Stadium for the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state title.
Hodges admitted he wasn”t running like usual and that he wanted to do something to help him feel like he did at the start of the season. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day in numbing water will do the trick. He said it takes only a few minutes for the cold to envelope his body. From there, he listens to music to help pass the time before he gets out feeling a little better — and a lot colder.
“My stamina was gone,” Hodges said. “I was sluggish, but that is what happens to you when you run so much. … (Being in the cold water) ain”t that bad. It is indescribable. It is horrible your first time, but you get used to it. When the numbness wears off, you can really feel your legs and the energy come back to you.”
Hodges, a senior who transferred to Aberdeen High last year, played a key role in 2009 and teamed with Jamerson Love to help the Bulldogs get to Jackson. That run ended with a 34-20 loss to Tylertown.
This year, Hodges and the Bulldogs hope to leave Jackson with a different taste in their mouths.
Hodges has carried the rushing load for the Bulldogs, who transitioned from a spread attack last season to a running scheme this season. Last week, Aberdeen didn”t attempt a pass in the second half of its 28-0 victory against Winona in the Class 3A North State championship.
The Bulldogs often don”t need to take to the air because they do just fine on land thanks to Hodges, who has 299 carries for 2,033 yards and 34 touchdowns. The emergence of senior Brandon Smith at running back has given the Bulldogs another weapon out of the backfield and a player who can help stretch defenses with his speed.
“The stats speak for themselves,” Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said of Hodges. “You can”t say enough about him. He has filled the void. He is as strong a runner as I have ever coached.”
Hodges uses a combination of power and speed to test defenses. He isn”t afraid to run between the tackles to grind out hard yards, and he certainly doesn”t mind the workload that has kept him one of the busiest players on the team.
“Coach told me at the beginning of the season I was going to run the ball 30 times a game and I was going to have a lot of pressure on myself,” Hodges said. “I prepared my body and prepared my mind for it.”
Hodges said he didn”t mind sharing the load with Love last season because he enjoys winning. He said he didn”t know how the wear and tear was going to affect him, but he is glad the ice tub has provided a numbing escape and helped him reach one of his goals of getting to 2,000 yards. The other goal will have to wait until Saturday.
“It isn”t just me,” Hodges said. “It is my offensive line. You have to give credit to them. The receivers, even when the ball is not in their hands, they are blocking. It is a team effort.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.