Despite the end-of-season departures from the main coaches who recruited him, Nate Hodnett didn’t waver from his commitment to Tennessee Tech, and the program’s head coach reassured him he was still very much wanted on campus.
The Apalachee High School senior offensive lineman made it official Wednesday, Dec. 18, inking a football scholarship with the Golden Eagles on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period. Hodnett becomes the first player in Apalachee history to sign in the early period, which was enacted in 2017.
The Golden Eagles compete in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s Ohio Valley Conference and went 6-6 this fall.
“I’m so thankful for my coaches and teammates, and this wouldn’t have been able to happen without them,” Hodnett said of the signing. “We’ve had some guys here at Apalachee go D-I, and it’s an honor to follow in their footsteps. I’m excited to get to work. (Apalachee head coach Tony Lotti) has instilled a lot in me with the work ethic he preaches and I’m just trying to earn my way.”
Hodnett, a 6-foot-2, 266-pound lineman, has been a mainstay on both the Apalachee offensive and defensive lines throughout his high school career, earning multiple all-region honors in GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA. He also is the starting first baseman on the school’s baseball team.
Hodnett committed to Tennessee Tech in September over a handful of other offers. At the end of the season, the Golden Eagles lost their offensive coordinator, who took the head coaching job at Gardner-Webb, and their offensive line coach also departed for a promotion at another program. But an hour after those departures were announced, Tennessee Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander called Hodnett and assured him he was still at the top of the Golden Eagles’ recruiting board for the class of 2020.
“It happens. Coaches come and go and that’s part of the business,” Hodnett said. “I had a really tight relationship with those guys and I wish them the best of luck in the future, but Coach (Alexander) told me they’re really excited about me and want me there. I feel like it’s the place for me. The family atmosphere he preaches is what stands out. I went to a camp there in the summer and automatically connected with those guys. I’m a small-town kind of guy and that feeling is definitely there.”
Lotti said Tennessee Tech is getting not only a strong and smart player, but a high-quality person in Hodnett.
“He’s just been a staple since I got here,” the third-year head coach at Apalachee said. “He was one of the first kids I met and sat down with. He’s the perfect example of ‘do right and right follows.’ We’re obviously going to miss him, and he’s brought a lot to the table here, but I think he’s going to do big things at Tennessee Tech.”
Hodnett’s intelligence and willingness to study all facets of the game has stood out to Lotti.
“He’s blessed with a lot of physical ability and size, but his being a student of the game elevates his game,” Lotti said. “He’s always been a guy who wants to know the whole picture of what we’re trying to do.”
That desire to learn should serve Hodnett well at the next level as the Golden Eagles plan to shift him from offensive tackle to the interior and groom him as a center while also working him at guard.
“I played some there early on this year, did alright, and I’m looking forward to learning more,” Hodnett said. “I’ve been working on my own there with a trainer and am just trying to master that craft of snapping the ball. I’ve always been one who wants to study the tendencies of my opponent and try to understand how everything works together. And they (Tennessee Tech) think those traits will fit well with that position.”