BEREA — Reggie Hodges has spent eight years punting in the NFL, the last four of them with the Browns.
Now, he plans on grooming the next generation of punters, kickers and off-the field leaders in Northeast Ohio.
On Friday, Hodges will hold the inaugural sessions of the Hodges Kicking Academy at Lou Groza Field in Berea. Specialized instruction for kickers will take place from 12-3 p.m., while punters take over from 4-7 p.m.
Registration is available on-line at HodgesKickingAcademy.com with a discount for athletes who sign up for both sessions.
“There are a ton of football camps in Northeast Ohio, but none of them are strictly for specialists,” said Hodges, who averaged a career-high 43.9 yards per punt with Cleveland in 2010. “I want to work one-on-one with players to help them achieve their goals.
“My goal is to cultivate the talent we have here and help our great high school football teams become even better through the kicking game.”
Hodges, who is an unrestricted free agent, owns 64 games of NFL experience with the Rams, Eagles, Jets, Titans and Browns. His career average of 41.5 yards ranks 129th in the history of the league, while his 68-yard rush in 2010 at New Orleans is the longest ever by a punter.
The 31-year-old also has been on the roster of the Colts, Seahawks and Patriots since being selected in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft by St. Louis.
“I’ve been with seven other teams and lived in some very cool cities, but Cleveland really, truly embraced me and my family,” said Hodges, whose Browns teammates voted him the 2012 Ed Block Courage Award winner. “We just love it here, which is why we’ve made it our home.
“It might sound kind of strange to some people, but Cleveland has really been a blessing for all of us.”
In return, Hodges, his wife Arin, and their two young children have been active members of the community since arriving in town midway through the 2009 season.
The Ball State University graduate also has grown his ministry out of Grace Church in Middleburg Heights, which he plans on continuing even if his next NFL stop is on the other side of the country.
Down the road, he hopes as many people recognize him as Reggie Hodges, the man, as they do Reggie Hodges, the pro football player.
“That’s why I’m stressing the ‘academy’ part of my kicking academy,” Hodges said. “Ultimately, I want to build a community of young men that I can provide mentorship and leadership to year-round.
“If I’m attaching my name to it, I want it to be much more than just giving a couple of hours of instruction and everyone going their separate ways. My goal is to use my platform and skill set to become a part of their lives.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.