Best of 2020: OSU Beavers male student athlete

OSU Football junior wide receiver snags a catch in the Beavers’ final home game versus Arizona State in Reser Stadium on Nov. 16. 

First place: Isaiah Hodgins

When Isaiah Hodgins next steps onto a football field, he won’t be suiting up to play for the Oregon State Beavers, where he has spent the last three years of his career.

Rather, the player voted as Oregon State’s Best Male Athlete of 2019 has decided to forego his final season of eligibility with the Beavers. The team’s star wide receiver has made the choice to declare for the NFL draft and take his talents to the professional level. 

Through years of record breaking and accolades, Isaiah Hodgins has proven himself to be one of the most efficient wide receivers in school history. But Hodgins’ impact has as much to do with academics and his presence in the community as much as it does with football. With his career officially moving forward, Hodgins will leave behind a legacy that extends beyond the Oregon State record books and one that begins way before his time playing in the orange and black. 

While his college career began in 2017, Hodgins was making a name for himself as a football player years prior to enrolling at Oregon State. As a wide receiver for Berean Christian High School in Walnut Creek, Calif. he began to show glimpses of the type of player he would grow to be in college. 

Putting up 94 receptions in both his junior and senior seasons to go along with over 20 touchdowns and 1,400 yards in each of his final two years, Hodgins began to attract national attention. He was voted as a consensus four-star recruit, while also being ranked the 26th best high school wide receiver in the nation by Rivals. 

While catching the attention of recruiters, Hodgins was also grabbing the eyes of people within the school. Principal of Berean Chrisitian High School, Nicholas Harris, was one of those people. Even today, Harris speaks highly of the wide receiver, and remembers being impressed the first time he saw Hodgins play.

“I played in the NFL for twelve years myself, and I knew Isaiah was an NFL player from the first time I saw him play at Berean,” Harris said via email. “He routinely made catches and had the speed that you only see at the professional level.”

While Harris saw NFL potential in the standout high school receiver, Hodgins first needed to take his game to the college level. After receiving scholarship offers from Nebraska, Michigan, and Oregon, he chose to commit to Oregon State. 

With the Beavers, Hodgins contributed to the offense early in his career, playing in 11 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons with a combined 15 starts. Given the frequent opportunity, he established himself as the Beavers leading receiver in yards and receptions by his sophomore season. 

After a second year that included tying the Oregon State all time record for receptions in a game with 14 catches against Nevada en route to an All PAC-12 honorable mention, Hodgins elevated his game. 

In his junior season, Hodgins broke his personal career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He earned Associated Press All PAC-12 first team honors and finished as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, an honor given to the best wide receiver in college football each year. Hodgins played like one of the better receivers in the country during his 12 games as a junior, finishing with 86 catches, 1,171 yards, and 13 receiving touchdowns, ranking top 20 nationally in each category.                                                                                                                                               

OSU Football head coach Jonathan Smith worked with Hodgins for the final two seasons of his college career, and gave credit to him for showing improvement across the board, which lead to his increased production.

“He got stronger, he got way more detailed in his route running,” Smith said. “He earned that season he had because he worked so hard.”

With his contributions to the team, Hodgins was winning over the support of the Oregon State fan base. While the Beavers as a team were largely flying under the radar after a slow start to the season, Hodgins was getting national attention by leading fan voting for the Biletnikoff Award early in the year.

While receiving the support and admiration of the Beavers fan base, Smith knew that Hodgins was deserving of the recognition but said that the receiver was not playing for individual awards.

“He was getting a ton of support around here and it’s been well earned,” Smith said. “To be honest he’s focused so much during the season on the task at hand [he wasn’t] totally following that. But he was getting some good attention.”

If Hodgins was not focused on his Biletnikoff recognition, the supporters he has made along the way were. Still following his career, Harris spoke with pride about Hodgins success and Biletnikoff support.

“Isaiah should have won the Biletnikoff,” Harris said. “Isaiah’s success, and the national attention that it brought, made everyone at Berean so proud to know that he started with us.”

Included in Hodgins’ supporters is Dr. Trischa Goodnow, an Oregon State professor at the School of Arts and Communication who taught Hogins in two courses while he pursued a degree in Speech Communication. Through his work in the classroom and in the Corvallis community, Hodgins had earned a fan in Goodnow, who expressed her support by voting for him in the Biletnikoff fan poll “every day.”

Hodgins’ community work around Corvallis that won over Goodnow was not a team requirement, nor was it publicized by the media. Goodnow explained that he specifically sought her out to join her in volunteering to help provide food to homeless people around the Thanksgiving holiday break.

“I do a homeless feed on Thanksgiving and I asked students if they wanted to do it, and right away Isaiah said ‘I need to work it out with my family, but I want to do that’,” Goodnow said, “One of the people who was working was really impressed that there wasn’t a media crew there. That he was genuinely doing it to just do it. It wasn’t about publicity.” 

Hodgins’ performance on the field speaks loudly, but much of what he has done off the field goes by quietly. In addition to his volunteer work, Goodnow was impressed with his dedication to his major and finishing his degree. 

“We have talked about him finishing his degree,” Goodnow said. “It’s important to him, it’s important to his family. I have good confidence he’ll succeed at whatever he does.”

For right now, Isaiah Hodgins will next be looking to succeed in the NFL. After three years of productive play in college and an All-Conference junior season, Hodgins will have moved from Berean, to Oregon State, to whichever NFL team chooses to sign him. 

Wherever he ends up, Hodgins will have supporters for his next step, and people like Jonathan Smith who believe he can continue to succeed at the highest level.

“I think he’s an awesome person, he’s mature and competitive,” Smith said. “Really smart, a team player, not worried about just himself. I think he’s got a lot of attributes that NFL teams will like.”

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