IOWA CITY, Iowa – Abdul Hodge has been interviewed by the Iowa media many times over the past two decades, but Wednesday marked the first time he met with the Iowa media in quite a while, and as the new Iowa tight ends coach.
Hodge, a former star linebacker at Iowa, was hired to fill the void created when Ken O’Keefe recently stepped away from coaching the Iowa quarterbacks, a job O’Keefe had held since 2017.
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz had previously coached the tight ends, but he switched to coaching quarterbacks after O’Keefe stepped down to become an analyst for Iowa.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz then went looking to hire a full-time tight ends coach, and he became convinced that Hodge was the right person for the job after they had a conversation.
Kirk Ferentz was willing to overlook Hodge’s lack of experience in coaching offense because Ferentz felt so strongly that Hodge would grow into the position and thrive at his alma mater.
Hodge had coached linebackers for the University of South Dakota the previous three seasons.
“Abdul’s a guy that’s been on my mind, quite frankly, initially that wasn’t my first thought because he’s been coaching defense and played defense,” Kirk Ferentz said. “And maybe the most pleasing thing throughout the process was when I had a conversation with him was just his not only willingness to consider coaching offense, but really his eagerness. And he was excited about it and gave me the right answer.
“I don’t know if it was an answer just to give but I think he was being genuine. He sees it as a chance to grow and improve his vision of the game, which I think is smart. It’s good to have experience on both sides of the football.”
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Hodge played linebacker at Iowa from 2002-05 and made first-team All-Big Ten three times. He and close friend Chad Greenway formed one of the best one-two punches at linebacker in program history.
“It feels great, I’m having a great time with it,” Hodge said of his new job. “In some ways it feels that I never left, though, because I never really took my hand off the program.”
Asked if returning to his alma mater as a coach had always been in the back of his mind, Hodge said:
“It’s always a possibility. Coming from Iowa, it’s always a dream to somehow get back and coach one day. But, obviously, being a part of the University of South Dakota, they gave me my first opportunity to coach at a high level. So, I was just focused on doing that. I was coaching all the linebackers and getting ready to go into the spring and go into the fall.
“So, when I got the call and the opportunity to come back, I was excited.”
Hodge takes over a position that has two established tight ends in senior Sam LaPorta and sophomore Luke Lachey.
LaPorta led Iowa in receiving yards (670) and catches (53) last season.
“I’m excited to coach the tight ends,” Hodge said. “I know it’s a great group of guys. Also have a lot of experience coming back in Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey.
“Obviously, those guys have got a ton of volume and a ton of reps. They actually make my job easy as well. Anytime you hire a new coach and take over a new room, having that experience is also really, really good.”