Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Rebels young and old shift focus to camp in Ely ahead of 2012 home opener
- Rebels need passing targets like Marcus Sullivan and Jake Phillips to bring balance
- Brewer: UNLV’s top rusher, Tim Cornett, is eager to step up as a leader
- Dionza Bradford’s return could be big boost for Rebels backfield
- Notebook: John Lotulelei practices with a cast on his hand and Rebels sign off Twitter
- Take 5: Players and stories to keep an eye on as UNLV opens fall football practice
- UNLV football kickoff times set, including 3 day home games
- Rebels need the summer to try to become a team with more than potential
- All UNLV Football Coverage
Sidney Hodge has two birthdays to celebrate this month.
The second one, on Aug. 25, is for his daughter, Cameron, who will turn 2. The first one comes on Aug. 17, right in the middle of UNLV football’s camp in Ely.
No matter. The junior cornerback from Palo Verde will find some way to treat his wife, Natiyah. After all, she gave him the best gift possible at the end of July by returning from basic training and reuniting their family.
For seven months — strategically planned in the offseason — Sidney Hodge raised Cameron while his wife underwent training in the Army National Guard at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. A communications specialist, Natiyah Hodge endured the basic combat training and completed her advanced individual training. Both components make up what is commonly known as U.S. Army basic training.
“This is what she’s been wanting to do since high school,” Sidney Hodge said. “… We figured that now was the best time.”
As her departure approached in January, the Hodges worked fervently to get things ready and make the transition as easy as possible. They set up babysitters. Sidney Hodge got his classes in order.
As little as 10 years ago, it would have been nearly impossible to be a full-time student-athlete without needing to hire a full-time babysitter, but with the proliferation of online classes available, Sidney Hodge was able to keep up with coursework mostly from home. He took four classes online and one on campus.
During morning workouts and spring practices, Sidney Hodge would usually drop Cameron off at his mother-in-law’s house and then pick her up afterward. It’s been a family effort, and it’s worth it because they all know the many positives that can come from his wife’s work.
“What the military does for our family, the benefits are amazing,” Sidney Hodge said. “And it’s a career opportunity for her.”
The support is there on campus, too, though Sidney Hodge doesn’t need it often. UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said Sidney Hodge has an ability to shut off the hectic schedule he’s had to deal with and, once he’s on the practice fields or in the weight room, just focus on the task at hand.
When Hauck watches Sidney Hodge bounce between the two worlds of full-time player and full-time father, it’s clear he’s looking at a man mature beyond his years and, likely, beyond the rest of the team.
“We, as coaches and his teammates, respect him for doing the right thing,” Hauck said. “For a guy who lives up to his responsibilities, we have an appreciation and admiration for that.”
This year, Sidney Hodge will wear the No. 36 Battle Born Jersey, a Hauck tradition that honors a native of Nevada — the 36th state to join the union — who best exemplifies the toughness and character the name evokes.
“When you have solid people on your team, you’re better off, and he’s certainly that,” Hauck said.
Sidney Hodge is a leader in a group of defensive backs that lacks upperclassmen. Senior safety Dre Crawford has been very impressive in fall camp, but outside of those two, it’s mostly freshmen and sophomores in the rotation.
That is to say, it’s a natural position for the mature Sidney Hodge. And if he’s able to take any parenting lessons from home and apply them to the field, or vice versa, even better.
Once you’ve had to raise your child without your wife there to help, the work necessary to become a better football player suddenly looks a lot easier.
Sidney Hodge said he wants to put himself in the position to create more plays this year and get his hands on the football more. And while he works on that in Ely, Natiyah Hodge will be home with Cameron, catching up on lost time until her husband comes home and the family is together again.
“It was kind of rough on (Cameron), but she took it pretty well,” Sidney Hodge said. “As soon as (Natiyah) came back, she took it right in stride and picked up where she left off.
“Now she’s Momma’s girl again.”
That alone is enough reason to celebrate.