“Go down your own path”: Trinity Catholic senior announces his college destination

Jaydon Hodge poses for a photo during practice at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Hodge has committed to play football with UCLA. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted September 3, 2021 | By James Blevins

Jaydon Hodge poses for a photo during practice at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala on Aug. 31. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

It was a tough decision for Jaydon Hodge to make, choosing which university he wanted to commit to after high school.

He said he agonized over the decision all summer long.

Of the 25 college offers, Hodge narrowed it down to two schools: Mississippi State and Yale University — two very different schools with the same canine mascot.

After careful thought, Hodge chose Yale’s Bulldog in blue.

The senior from Trinity Catholic High School announced his commitment on Aug. 26. He will attend Yale in 2022-23 and play for the NCAA Division I Bulldog football team.

“I chose Yale for the connections that it had. The alumni… I looked up how well it was ranked in the nation, and it stood out,” said Hodge.

Hodge is the second local athlete to attend Yale in recent years.

Vincent B. Vaughns, who attended North Marion before finishing his high school education at Philips Exeter Academy in 2016, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 2020. Vaughns was a track and field specialist.

Hodge, on the other hand, is fleet-footed in the defensive backfield.

The 6-foot, 182-pound safety started playing football at 11 with the Marion County Youth Football League.

In 2020, as a junior for the Celtics squad, Hodge registered 34 tackles, two tackles for loss and broke up five passes.

Trinity Catholic (7-4 overall record) won a 3A Region 2 title last season and reached the State Final Four.

Hodge recognizes that within him exists a person who longs for the sound of the crowd in a huge football stadium and all the glitz and glamour that comes with being the person who gives them a reason to yell.

But there also exists within him the ambitious heart of a serious student. He is a young man who longs for a career that far outlasts his days on the gridiron.

“I chose the route that gets me that degree,” said Hodge.

Academically, Hodge plans to major in political science. He hopes to connect with politicians, and past Yale graduates, such as John Kerry and Ron DeSantis, to name just two examples.

“[Yale] showed me that they can connect me with them. Talk to them. Talk to different people in the political field. That’s my main focus because I’m really interested in politics.

“Usually, people get a political science degree to become a lawyer,” aID Hodge, who as a junior was class president. “And I might go down that route, but for now, I intend to just focus on majoring in political science.”

Jaydon Hodge runs the ball during practice at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala on Aug. 31. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

His interest in politics isn’t anything new. When he was in the third grade, Hodge remembered being fascinated by presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney debating in 2012.

“That’s really where my interest in politics started,” Hodge said. “And I’ve stuck with it ever since. It’s not often that you hear a third-grader who’s interested in politics. They usually want to play video games and hang out with friends outside. But it just really intrigued me.”

Hodge still has his senior season of football to play for Trinity Catholic. But he said he feels no stress juggling his present with his impending future.

“It actually helped me focus,” said Hodge of committing to Yale at the beginning of his senior year. “Now I can focus on winning a state championship. My college decision has been made. So that takes care of that.”

Hodge has yet to visit Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but he hopes to visit the campus officially on Nov. 20.

“That Thanksgiving weekend I have plans to go up and see a Harvard versus Yale football game,” he said.

Hodge is quick to thank his coaches and many teachers at Trinity Catholic for helping guide him to where he is today.

“All the teachers here and all the faculty and staff are like, ‘Hey, we are going to prepare you for college — because this is a college prep school.’ A lot of people think it’s just a private school. But no, it’s college prep,” he said.

Hodge hopes his choice of an Ivy League school and his insatiable interest in politics rather than purely football will inspire others.

“I’m changing the game and showing people that it’s OK to be different,” he said. “It’s OK to kind of go down your own path.”

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