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2023 Playoffs

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Waived to Praised: The Isaiah Hodgins Story

ISAIAH-HODGINS

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Isaiah Hodgins had one of the most unassuming arrivals by a new Giants player in recent memory.

The wide receiver was awarded off waivers to the team on Nov. 2, one day after his release by the Buffalo Bills. At the time, his career totals included two games played – one in 2021, one in 2022 – 20 offensive snaps and four receptions in Buffalo's 38-3 victory against Pittsburgh on Oct. 9. One week later, he was not targeted on any of his three snaps (plus three on special teams) at Kansas City in his last appearance for the Bills.

It was not exactly a resume to suggest the Giants had just acquired a player who would soon be one of their most valuable producers in their run to the NFC divisional playoffs. But that's exactly what Hodgins has become.

Since debuting on Nov. 13 against Houston, Hodgins has 41 receptions, tying Richie James for the team high over that span - despite sitting out the regular-season finale in Philadelphia with most of the other starters. He has scored five touchdowns in the last six games. In the Giants' 31-24 wild card victory in Minnesota on Sunday, he caught eight passes for 105 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown and a 32-yarder. Hodgins is the first Giants receiver to exceed 100 yards in a postseason game since Hakeem Nicks had 109 on 10 catches in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI victory against New England.

"He's been nothing but impressive coming in, studying the playbook, working his butt off - he's a great teammate," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "He does all the right things. He's a pro. He's one of those guys that jumped into that room and was able to add some value."

View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Hodgins' contributions helped the sixth-seeded Giants advance to the divisional playoff game vs. the top-seeded Eagles on Saturday. That is quite a rapid rise for someone who was a relative unknown when he arrived 11 weeks ago.

"I would definitely say it's a surreal moment," Hodgins said today. "I never look past it. I knew that I could do this, but just to be there sitting back looking at a couple months ago, I was getting cut from one team. And now, I'm playing in the second round of the playoffs. Sometimes I get that overwhelming feeling of just like, 'Man, I'm so blessed to be here and I'm so thankful.' I just try to remind myself of that every day."

Hodgins has teamed with Darius Slayton and James to give the Giants a surprising but valuable trio of wideouts. Against the Vikings, they combined for 16 catches for 224 yards. In the eight games from Hodgins' debut through the Jan. 1 victory against Indianapolis that clinched the Giants' berth in the postseason, they totaled 100 receptions for 1,599 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Those guys have done a great job," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I'm certainly not surprised. I don't think guys on this team are surprised by that. They're really good players who have the ability to impact the game in a lot of different ways. They've all played at a really high level throughout this season m, so a lot of credit to them. They've showed up time and time again making plays."

Hodgins entered the NFL out of Oregon State as a 2020 sixth-round draft choice by the Bills. At the time, Buffalo's assistant general manager was Joe Schoen and the offensive coordinator was Brian Daboll, the two figures who now head the Giants' football decision-making.

As a rookie, Hodgins spent the entire year on injured reserve and underwent shoulder surgery on Dec. 4. His 2021 season consisted entirely of four snaps at New England on Dec. 26. When the Bills released Hodgins on Nov. 1, they hoped to sign him to their practice squad the following day. But Schoen and Daboll had always been impressed with Hodgins' skill and work ethic and quickly claimed him.

"On that day, it was definitely a roller coaster," Hodgins said. "I was just at home kind of relaxing, thinking, 'Dang. I just got cut. Hopefully I get brought back onto the active in a couple of weeks. And I got to work my way back up.' And then I started getting all the Facetime calls and texts from Daboll like I was coming over here. And a couple hours later, I was on the flight, getting the playbook and learning any of the new stuff."

Hodgins also admired Daboll and was happy to join a team that used a playbook he was familiar with. His release was forgotten as quickly as it had been processed.

"It never really rattled my confidence," Hodgins said. "If anything, I think it helped just because of the way that Daboll brought me in, I just knew that he was going to give me the opportunity. He wasn't going to hand me a job, but he was going to give me an opportunity and let me see what I could do with it. I think week by week and practice by practice, he continued to do that. I went out there and worked hard every day and tried to show my best of like, 'Hey, I want to be here, and I want to stay here.' And I think it's gone good so far. So, I'm just thankful for those guys for just bringing me in."

When he arrived here, the players and coaches were scattered for the bye week. Before he met most of them, Hodgins immersed himself in the team's offense.

"I came up and I just looked at the playbook and tried to learn anything that was different in this offense from Buffalo's," he said. "And after that, I just focused on the technique of things and studying the defense and just how to help this team and getting open and doing my job."

Hodgins left a Bills team that had played in three consecutive postseasons and was one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Giants hadn't been to the playoffs since 2016 and were widely expected to extend their drought when the season began. But Hodgins quickly discovered that outside perceptions of the Giants were all wrong. And now they're one of just eight teams still standing.

"I think the people within the locker room expected us to be here," Hodgins said. "And I think the team knew that at the beginning of the season. I wasn't here with them then, but when I first came in here and I knew and I saw the pieces that were on this team, I just knew this is a talented roster. This is a talented team. And I feel like each week, they've done a good job of catching me up to speed. And they've done a good job of buying into Daboll and how he wants us to practice, how he wants us to play. And like, 'Hey, if we take this thing one week at a time, we could keep proving everybody wrong.' But it's a 'not looking too far ahead' mentality. One week at a time. Practice, hard work and just continue to fight every game."

It's a mentality that has worked for both Isaiah Hodgins and the Giants.

View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for the Divisional Round matchup.

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