Calder Hodge: The Double Amputee Quarterback

Courtesy of JJ Watt and Calder Hodge

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Calder Hodge grew up just like any other kid. He loved playing sports. He loved watching football on the weekends. He loved playing catch in the living room with his brothers (despite his mother’s disapproval). And he dreamed of being an NFL quarterback one day. 

But there was one difference between Calder and the other kids: he's a double amputee.

Hodge was born with a condition called Fibular Hemimelia, which meant his fibula and tibia did not develop normally. When he was two years old his family decided it would be best for his future if they amputated both of his legs. Since then, Hodge has used prosthetic legs, but not once has he ever used them as an excuse. 

Growing up, Hodge had three older brothers who all played sports. Everything they did, he wanted to do. 

“Calder has these three older brothers and he’s followed them his whole entire life,” said his mom, Kayla. “When the boys were playing baseball, Calder wanted to play baseball. When the boys started playing football, he wanted to play football.” 

His brother Tyler played baseball when Calder was young, so baseball was Calder's first sport. Tyler made sure to get him playing as soon as possible. 

“When he got his legs amputated I think they had him laying in bed for three days and then he could move around,” Tyler said. “As soon as he was moving around we had him throwing the ball and swinging the bat because at that point I was in baseball so that’s what he liked.”

Baseball was great, but football was Calder’s true love. Every Thursday-Monday in the fall, you knew exactly where to find him; sitting in his living room, watching football. Houston's Case Keenum was his favorite player growing up; he grew up in Houston, so the Cougar QB was always close by. 

Calder’s football career began in second grade with flag football, which he played until fourth grade. By then, he was itching to play tackle football.

His mother, on the other hand, was not ready for that change quite yet. 

“He started playing flag football and I was like ‘OK, this isn’t too bad. I like this,’” Kayla said. “I was OK with that, but he kept wanting to play tackle football and I kept saying ‘No, we’re going to save that for junior high’ because that is when all the other boys started playing tackle.”

Although his attempts were unsuccessful, Calder kept trying to convince her. After a while, he realized he could not do it on his own, so one summer when Tyler was home from college, Calder recruited him to join his cause. Finally, mom gave in.  

“I couldn’t do it,” Calder said. “It was my brother Tyler. He had to have a conversation with her and he basically just told her I was ready.”

Actions speak louder than words, so not only did Tyler tell her Calder was ready, but he also showed her.  The former starting defensive end at Tomball High School took his little brother into the backyard, and tackled him. 

“I would kick the ball to him, and I would run down there while he was running towards me, and I would just hit him as hard as I could,” Tyler said. “He would fly two feet backwards, but he always kept playing.” 

At last, Calder was cleared to play tackle football. He would probably never be sacked harder than he was when Tyler hit him in the backyard.

Calder played in fifth and sixth grade and everything went well, so he continued playing in junior high. He played at Willow Wood Junior High in Tomball for two seasons, and then began high school at Legacy The School of Sports Sciences in Spring. That is when his story began to take off. 

The summer before his ninth grade year, the Detroit Lions invited Calder and Kayla to their training camp. They got to tour the facilities, meet players and Calder even got to throw a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in a scrimmage, fulfilling his lifelong dream of throwing a touchdown pass in the NFL. He got to talk to players like Matthew Stafford and Danny Amendola, and to this day he still has a relationship with a few of the players. 

“He still keeps in touch with some of the players,” Kayla said. “Occasionally he will send them highlights or tell them they had a good game. That experience really stuck with him and kept him moving forward. It is something I will never forget.”

After a great season at Legacy, Calder decided to transfer to Houston Christian, where he has been for the last two seasons. He has split time with the other QB’s at Houston Christian for the last two seasons but he hopes he will separate himself this year. 

What will he do next, you may ask?

Calder hopes to continue his football career collegiately. After his strong freshman season, his recruitment was the busiest it has been, but things slowed down a bit during his sophomore and junior seasons. Now, things have begun to pick up again. He has talked with Coach Darrell Dickey at Texas A&M quite a bit and even attended an Aggie camp a few weeks back. He has also heard from coaches at Tyler Junior College and Tarleton State.

When his playing career comes to an end, he wants to be a head coach. Calder is a true student of the game and loves football. He watches videos of the game and reads anything he can get his hands on. In fact, he is a yearly purchaser and loyal fan of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.  When he was in eighth grade, Fox Sports Southwest invited him to do the coin flip at the Texas High School State Championship game at AT&T in Dallas, but flipping the coin wasn’t the only thing he wanted to do. He told FSSW he only had one request, and that was to meet DCTF’s own Greg Tepper.

Calder has never used his disability as an excuse. His brothers never treated him differently so he expects everybody else to do the same. 

“He’s my little brother and I don’t want people to look at him like he is different,” Tyler said. “So I had to push him a little bit harder so he could understand, and I loved doing it because I wanted him to feel like he was normal.”

Tyler never celebrated the little things that Calder did in his games, like completing a pass or making the right read because that is what he expected from him. He always expected Calder to be great.

Calder loves when people tell his story. He doesn’t like the attention but he does like the light it sheds on people with disabilities. 

“This isn’t about me,” he said. “I like showing people that they can do whatever they want to.”

Calder will continue to be an example of what hard work can reward, no matter what you might be going through. 

“I want to continue to show others that they can do whatever they want to do, as long as they put in the work and put their mind to it,” he said. “I want, in five to 10 years, there to be hundreds of kids with disabilities that are doing whatever they want. I want to see people on the football field, I want to see people playing baseball and I want to see people thriving in life with the situation they’ve been dealt.”

Calder’s message to other people who may have obstacles is inspiring.

“No matter what you’re going through, it’s always going to get better,” he said. “There’s nothing in life that can keep you down, you can always bounce back up. After every loss there is always another week, you just gotta get back up and keep going.” 

 

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