The process began when Hodges was a student at Bremen, playing football and being a team captain during his senior season in 1987 before graduating in 1988. Then, after graduating from college and looking for an assistant coaching job, his former coach, Larry Weathington, was hired back at Bremen and brought on Hodges to the staff in 1994.
“This is where I want to be. This is my home. Coach Weathington, he coached me and then when I got out of college and had a chance, I came back in when I graduated from West Georgia. There was an opening. I had an opportunity to get it and they had just named coach Weathington as the coach again and I asked him if he would consider me on the staff, and he did. Roger Couch and coach Weathington went and hired me. I went from playing for him, coach Weathington, to coaching for him. That’s when I learned a lot of football, I learned a lot of stuff in those first years with him,” Hodges said. “Coach would knock on your door Saturday or Sunday night or Monday night or whenever and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to this. Let’s go look at this.’”
Then, when Ricky Tolleson was hired to be the head coach at Villa Rica, Hodges followed for two seasons before returning. When Tolleson was hired as the Bremen head man in 2000, Hodges came back to be his offensive coordinator. Now, 13 seasons later, Hodges will take over his alma mater’s program.
“It’s been 20 years, and it’s something I’ve worked for all my life. I wanted to do it here. I’m not one of those that wanted to wander all over the place and wants to go 500 different places because my family is most important,” Hodges said. “Bremen High School is the best place for my boys to be and my family to be and family is the most important thing to me. Bremen’s always been willing to accommodate those desires and the goals that you have for family-oriented people that want to make a difference in kids’ lives.”
The new Blue Devil head man is the first to say he is the product of the coaches he has played for and coached with. From top to bottom, Hodges is proud of the staffs he has had the benefit of working with over the years.
“Always looked up to my coaches. The guys that coached me, Jim Bennett, I look up to him tremendously. Gary Harper was here and helps out and his son is about to be in the ninth grade. Coach [Mark] Clark, all those guys coached me coming up,” Hodges said. “All my coaches, the reason I’ve never gotten out of coaching is because all my coaches were like my father. My father wasn’t around and they filled that void. That’s the most important thing I like about coaching today. I want to win, but I want to do it in the right way and hopefully share and make an impact on young men’s lives as much as I possibly can. In a world that’s so fast-paced today, they don’t always value that as much as they say they do. It’s the most important thing to me.”
Bremen has had a very stable coaching staff for a decade and a half, something rare in sports on any level these days. A core group that has been together from 14 to 16 years from even back to when Hodges and Tolleson were assistants together at Bremen before going to Villa Rica.
“I’d be crazy if I didn’t acknowledge that because good people have helped me along the way. That’s what it taught me being an offensive lineman — you don’t have to get the credit. We can all be successful if you don’t care who gets the credit. And you have to have good people. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been around some good coaches,” Hodges said.
“Some of the coaches we have on staff now, Tim Hanegan, I’ve been with him 15 or 16 years. Coach [Randy] Mouser and I have been together the last 14 or 15 [years]. Those are solid men across the board. Usually in today’s sports world, there’s so much turnover. But we’ve had consistency with a good family atmosphere. That is extremely difficult to pull off in today’s modern culture.”
The Blue Devils struggled last season in their first year competing in Class AA, going 5-5 and missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Hodges admitted that there are some things he and his staff will have to look at when it comes to preparing for next season, but with something that has worked as well as it has — four state quarterfinal appearances since 2004 — a complete overhaul is not necessary.
The roster at Bremen isn’t full of four and five-star recruits, but it is filled with guys who are willing to put in the work and get it right to have success on the field.
“Yeah, we want to win and have a successful program, but at the core of what we do are good, solid Christian principles. I’ve never coached an NFL player, but I’ve coached a lot of men. A lot of men that are going to be good husbands, daddies, brothers, leaders of businesses, and it’s made me become a better person,” Hodges said.
“I see Bremen as having kind of a service academy mentality. We might not be faster than you, we might not be bigger than you, but we’re going to work and we’re going to try to think and out-effort. Everything we try to do is based on effort, effort, effort and team, team, team. That’s something that we have made a living off of — team when it’s good, team when it’s bad, team when it’s so-so, team always. Then the next man up, many hands make light work. And if we get in there, we can overcome it. Together we can. All those things that people say, we try to buy into it.”
One of those changes could be Hodges giving up the offensive coordinator role he has held for the past 12 seasons. That isn’t a done deal, but depending on how some vacancies are filled, it is a possibility. Another thing the new coach wants to look at with his staff is the strength and conditioning program. Again, it is a situation where the program isn’t broken — Hodges called it a reason for much of the team’s success — but playing against a difference caliber of opponent in Class AA is something that can help.
While preparations begin for the 2013 football season, Hodges will be pulling double duty as he will remain the head track and field coach for this upcoming campaign.
“It’s difficult, but with track I know. I’ve got my files set up. The biggest thing that I worry about this time is I’ve got to do my dead-level best and give my 100 percent for those kids out on the track. They’re important, and at the other time to find a way to breathe and get all this new stuff done for football. It’s a heck of a job, because most people come in and say, ‘I’m the coach.’ But at this point, I’m going to have to lean on my assistant coaches in track a lot more,” Hodges said. “There will be some late nights, but that’s part of what happens when you say, ‘Yes.’ I’ll have to rely on my family, and with the good lord’s help we’ll find a way. I’ll just have to have a little more help on some things.”
That family has been what Hodges has leaned on throughout his career, especially his wife. It’s what has kept him grounded and happy in Bremen. When Hodges’ first son was born in 2000, he knew he didn’t want to chase jobs all over the state. Now 13 years later, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’ll always lean on my rock, and that’s my faith and my family. In this profession, you better have one heck of a strong family and my wife has been with me all the years I’ve been coaching. If I’ve learned one thing from all the coaches I’ve been around is you better have one heck of a wife. That’s who really gets the job done, and she’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” Hodges said. “That’s my best friend and that’s who I let my guard down around and a coach needs that to come home to. She really has the toughest job.”
The turnaround from Tolleson announcing his retirement on Thursday and Hodges being named his successor on Monday seems like a quick turnaround, but there has been talk of this situation coming up before.
Tolleson had said in the past it could be his last year from time to time and his assistants finally told him to stop. Well, when the 13-year Bremen head coach brought it up this time, it was for real and put everything in motion. After announcing his retirement on Thursday, the Bremen City Schools Board of Education voted to name Hodges the new coach just a few days later.
“What we tried to do is not talk about that too much. We just said, ‘You know if it happens, it happens.’ Your ambitions as a coach, those sometimes get out there and you want to use different ideas. But you better be loyal, and that’s something we’ve been able to pull off here. We’ve all been loyal and respected each other and wanted to spend time with each other, and that’s rare in coaching these days,” Hodges said.
“When [Tolleson] did it, he spoke to us, he did it the right way. Then he followed through and did exactly what he wanted. He said this is open and [you] can apply if you want to and that’s how the process went. You cant get a better board of education than we have.”
Hodges went on to say the opportunity is a humbling one and he couldn’t imagine making it here without the coaches he has played for, coached with and talked to along the way. Now he will start his head coaching career where his high school playing career and assistant coaching career began — home.
“It’s been pretty neat. I’ve taught in classrooms where my teachers taught me. Sometimes I’m teaching some of their kids and things like that. Bremen High School really helped me when I was a young man. It was a blessing to get here and then to be able to do what we did. These teachers and these coaches, they helped me get to where I am today. I owe a lot to them,” Hodges said. “I’m excited and I’m nervous. My heart is beating as fast as it can go, because I like to do things right. We have done things right here ... We’ve had great people, great administration and we have a tradition of trying to do things right and will continue that. I’m more than excited about it. I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is another challenge for me, a challenge along the way that my coaches and I will accept.”