Gerald Hodges has size, speed, toughness and an NFL future.
One area where the 6-foot-2, 237-pounder is lacking when it comes to football is intimate knowledge of the link between his school and his home.
Dave Robinson, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Greg Buttle, Andre Collins and Tony Sacca are among former Penn State standouts who hailed from southern New Jersey.
"I actually didn't know that," Hodges said after an impromptu history lesson.
Hodges isn't just the latest in a long line of South Jersey natives to star at Penn State. The senior linebacker is also upholding the tradition at the school's fabled position, and he emerged as a symbol of strength and resolve when Penn State badly needed it.
Hodges made the strongest comments of any Penn State player after some of his former teammates transferred in the wake of severe NCAA sanctions. Hodges stayed at Penn State even though any program would have welcomed the player who is an All-America candidate and a likely high-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
"My father, he always said you don't run from any situation," Hodges said. "The NCAA, they knocked us down, people knocked us down; we're just going to keep getting back up."
Penn State's front seven doesn't figure to get knocked down too often this season. It may be tops in the Big Ten, and it is a major reason why the Nittany Lions are expected to be competitive in Bill O'Brien's first year as coach.
Senior tackle Jordan Hill anchors the defensive line. A healthy Michael Mauti - the senior missed most of last season with a torn ACL - and Hodges give Penn State an outside linebacker duo that is as good as any in the country.
O'Brien said Hodges flashed his athleticism during a recent scrimmage when he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
"He is a guy who has had a really good training camp," O'Brien said. "He's a guy we will definitely expect to be a leader. We will expect him to do the right things off the field and lead the young guys."
Hodges led Penn State with 106 tackles in 2011, and he had such a breakthrough season that the Paulsboro, N.J., native considered leaving for the NFL before deciding to return for his senior season.
What he didn't consider is leaving Penn State after the NCAA punished the school for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
"It never crossed my mind," said Hodges, who grew up outside of Philadelphia, on the other side of the Delaware River. "This is where I came to play football, and this is where I want to end my career. Me staying here and the older guys that just shows our character."