FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -Reggie Hodges still gets an occasional funny look when he tells people what he does for a living.
He's a punter for the New York Jets. No big deal, except that Hodges is also black, and his skin color puts him in exclusive company.
``I haven't really thought about it like that,'' Hodges said Thursday. ``I know I'm the only one, but I mean, there are guys that have been there before me.''
Not many. Black punters have been rare in the NFL, with Reggie Roby, Greg Coleman and Rodney Williams topping a short list. Hodges is also the only one currently starting for an NFL team.
``But I'm not a black punter,'' Hodges insists. ``I'm a man of God who punts, and that's how I look at it.''
eived a call from the Jets last week, asking him to come in this week for a workout.
After New York released Graham, the team had an opening and signed Hodges.
``We had a high grade on him coming out of college,'' coach Eric Mangini said. ``He's been to a couple of the different preseason camps and he has also worked in some of the independent kicking clinics. We followed that pretty closely, and watching his development over time, we've been really pleased with it. He came in (Tuesday) and I thought he had an outstanding workout.''
Hodges reportedly showed impressive hang time in the workout, and has looked good during his first few practices with the Jets.
``I try to hit the ball hard and hit it high to give the coverage unit lots of time to get down there and make plays,'' he said. ``The net is my goal, not gross punts.''
It's been a long road to New York for Hodges, who was a sixth-round draft pick by St. Louis out of Ball State in 2005. He hasn't punted in an NFL game in nearly three years, but he'll be on the field Monday night when the Jets play the San Diego Chargers.
``It's good and it's nothing to be nervous about,'' he said. ``It's something you relish. You want to be on the stage and show what you can do to help the team. I'm excited about it.''
around the past few years.
As a rookie, Hodges beat out veteran Bryan Barker for the Rams' starting job. He didn't last long, though, and was released after struggling in five games. He was signed by Philadelphia a month later and played in three games for the Eagles before he was again cut.
Hodges was re-signed and cut again by Philadelphia, before suffering the same fate with Indianapolis. He spent the past two seasons out of football, but signed with Seattle this summer. After being one of the Seahawks' final cuts, Hodges was signed to New England's practice squad.
He was out of a job again when the Patriots released him before the season opener, but then the Jets came calling.
``It's been a lot of growing for me as a person and as a punter,'' he said. ``It sometimes takes guys awhile to figure out how to consistently punt at a high level and I was one of those guys. I'm still learning, but I'm to a point where coaches are feeling a little more comfortable with my technique and the things I can do.''
ham had very little experience with the kicking motion after a long career in the Australian Football League.
``I remember how to do it,'' Hodges said. ``I hit a field goal and kicked off decent, enough to get us through a game if a disaster happened. Nothing special.''
The pressure's on Hodges to do well because a possible replacement is only a bad punt away. The Jets signed Waylon Prather, a rookie out of San Jose State, to the practice squad on the same day they signed Hodges. One reporter suggested that if the media never spoke to him the rest of the season, that might be a good thing, because he would be doing his job successfully.
``Absolutely,'' Hodges said with a big smile. ``I'll see you guys later.''
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