We diehard fans that comprise Steelers Nation are truly a lucky bunch. Not only do we get the privilege to root for a perennial winning franchise, we seemingly have the opportunity to witness at least one feel good story each season.
While some fans in our own division dream about simply experiencing a winning season, we members of Steelers Nation enjoy the success stories of multiple overachievers that flourish in the Steelers’ winning culture.
Make no mistake about it, the Steelers have created a culture conducive to winning. Although the Steelers haven't won a championship in over a decade, and the Patriots have tied them for the most Super Bowl titles in league history, the Steelers are perennial playoff contenders. Get in the big dance, and you never know what might happen. The favorite going in doesn't always win, but the best TEAM often does. Regardless, there can only be one winner, so let us all enjoy the journey.
Even with all the distractions accompanying the past couple of seasons, the Steelers have enjoyed some rather remarkable success stories. JuJu Smith Schuster was a breath of fresh air for a veteran roster and fanbase feeling the overwhelming pressure to win their next championship. His youthful exuberance and excitement was desperately needed and embraced.
Last season James Conner became the de facto starting running back for the Steelers and went on to enjoy a Pro Bowl season. The impact of his success was magnified by the fact he is a well documented cancer survivor and an inspiration to so many individuals presently battling the disease. His story is indeed Conner Strong.
There are too many stories of inspiration for a franchise that is often imitated, but seldom duplicated, over the past fifty years to list them all, but the list would be substantial. For this article, we are going to concentrate on this year's rather unbelievable candidate - the man affectionately referred to as Duck.
The first time I ever heard about Pittsburgh Steelers QB Devlin 'Duck' Hodges I was laying flat on my back in a hospital bed. Since I was unable to attend training camp due to a surgical procedure, I was scrolling the internet searching for inside information and eye witness accounts of camp proceedings. I happened to come across a question submitted on this site by a valued member. They asked "Who is the short white QB who keeps slinging dimes all over the practice fields?" That piqued my interest so I investigated further.
Honestly, I was less than impressed. A barely six foot QB who broke some passing records and won some small college awards in the process, he wasn't even invited to the combine. At first glance I thought at least he must be pretty smart, seeing that he played at Stanford. Then, upon further review, I realized he played at football factory Samford, not Stanford. Big difference. I immediately wrote him off as a camp arm. Boy was I wrong.
My son recently asked me what was the definition of a camp arm. I explained that each team has expanded rosters during training camp, which meant a multitude of skill position players in need of reps. Each team wants to limit the number of throws by their top QBs, especially if blessed with an established starter, in an concerted effort to avoid arm fatigue or possible injury. This reality creates the need for camp arms. A camp arm is usually a UDFA desperate for a camp invite. They are told straight up that they are there to reduce the wear and tear on the QBs that are expected to make the roster. Be prepared to throw till your arm feels like it is going to fall off and to ice your throwing wing at the conclusion of each day. The odds to make the roster, at least for that season, are miniscule at best.
Hodges beat those incredibly long odds and showed enough to make the practice squad. Good story right there, but wait, it gets better.
Big Ben Roethlisberger suffers a season ending injury, after Joshua Dobbs had already been traded to Jacksonville, and suddenly Duck finds himself on the roster. Had to be a dream come true, right? But wait, there's more.
Duck was minding his own business, enjoying the atmosphere of the NFL experience, when Mason Rudolph was knocked unconscious against the Ravens. Suddenly, the longest of long shots finds himself playing QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played well, doing his part in a game that was there for the winning.
Incredibly, Duck has played in three games since that introduction, two of them as the starter, and the Steelers are 3-0 in those games. Not only is he the feel good story of the moment, but he is on the verge of becoming a cult hero and potential marketing dynamo.
Hodges representatives need to strike while the iron is hot. Aaron Rodgers makes bank as a State Farm spokesperson, who better to represent Aflac than the Duck? I can see the hilarious commercials now. Hodges has plenty of charisma, trust me. Just watch him sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next offensive series. He is cool as a cucumber, resembling Forrest Gump when he first arrived in Vietnam to drive Lieutenant Dan crazy. He realizes he isn't even supposed to be in this position, so what does he have to lose? Just go out and do your best and let it fly. Who knows, maybe you are just meant to be.
One things for sure, my wife had a great idea after the game last night. I suggested that all the fans blow duck calls after each big play orchestrated by the Duck, but my wife took it a step farther. She said the team should play the classic song Disco Duck by Rick Dees from back in 1976. I seem to recall the city of Pittsburgh had a great experience with the We are Family anthem by Sister Sledge back in 1979. Some talented song writer could even change the lyrics and title to Devlin Duck. It maybe just crazy enough to work.
Nothing that Hodges accomplishes at this point should surprise anybody in Steelers Nation moving forward. Nobody saw this coming, except for maybe BTSC's own Flip Fisher.
Duck season is upon us, and Devlin will be the one doing the hunting.