Five Obscure Athletes In Recent Pittsburgh Memory, And Where They Are Today

Devlin Hodges comes out of the tunnel before a Steelers home game at Heinz Field | Photo Credit:

Pittsburgh has a rich history of athletes of every sport and league gracing the Steel City with their talents. 

Whether it be a Hall of Famer or a player who appeared in just one game, Pittsburgh’s athletic history is full of names and faces of all backgrounds, skills, and levels of recognition. 

But while the stars get most of the attention in sports media, Pittsburgh’s athletic history is also full of folk heroes, little-known players, or one-season wonders.

Devlin “Duck” Hodges, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers (2019)

With his first ever appearance in the National Football League coming in after Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was knocked out of the Steelers’ Week 5 contest against the Baltimore Ravens, Hodges quickly became a folk hero to the Steelers fan base. Hodges earned the nickname “Duck” after his incredible ability in duck calling, a name that stuck with him during his football career.

Hodges won the 2009 Junior World Duck Calling Championship, at only 13 years of age, and was also the victor of the 2018 Alabama State Duck Calling Championship. 

Hodges in a pre-season game for the Steelers. | Photo Credit: AP

But when he wasn’t ducking around, he was playing football, and signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent with the team in May of 2019. In that first appearance against Baltimore, Hodges completed seven passes for 68 yards, and ran the ball himself twice for 20 years. The Steelers would lose the game in overtime, 26-23, but Hodges would win in his first NFL start the next week against the Los Angeles Chargers, where he threw for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

Duck would take the reigns as backup after Mason Rudolph’s return from injury, but Duck would replace Rudolph midway through Week 11’s game against the winless Cincinnati Bengals, where almost immediately he threw a bomb to James Washington that went for a 79 yard touchdown. Hodges would appear in five more games for the Steelers, winning his first two but none after that, as the 8-5 Steelers collapsed and ended the season on a three game losing streak to finish 8-8, falling out of their playoff spot in the process. 

Hodges would spend the 2020 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, and after his contract expired, signed a future/reserve contract with the Los Angeles Rams in January of 2021, but was waived in August of that year. The next month, Hodges signed a three year deal with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League. He appeared in 4 games for Ottawa, having completed 16 of 38 pass attempts, and in April of 2022, it was announced that Hodges retired from professional football. 

Matthew McCrane, Kicker, Pittsburgh Steelers (2018)

Standing at just 165 pounds, which is almost 50 pounds below the NFL player average and 40 pounds below the NFL kicker average, Matthew McCrane goes down as a one-game wonder in Pittsburgh Steelers history. McCrane appeared in Pittsburgh’s Week 17 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, after Steelers kicker Chris Boswell was placed on the Reserve/Injured List. 

McCrane, who had no NFL experience prior to 2018, appeared in three games for the Oakland Raiders and one game for the Arizona Cardinals during the 2018 season. With Boswell injured, McCrane was signed to

Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Matt McCrane (3) makes a field goal from a hold by Jordan Berry to get the lead against the Cincinnati Bengals. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Don Wright (AP)

take over the kicking duties for the 8-6-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, who needed to win against Cincinnati and have the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cleveland Browns in order to clinch a playoff berth. 

McCrane kicked a perfect game, going 3/3 on field goals and kicking an extra point as the Steelers won 16-13 over the Bengals. Sadly, however, the magic of the night would soon run out, as the jumbotron at Heinz Field broadcasted the end of the Ravens-Browns game, in which Baltimore was able to hold on, winning the game and securing not only their playoff berth, but the end of the Steelers season. McCrane was released by the Steelers during the offseason.

After his release from Pittsburgh, McCrane was drafted by the New York Guardians of the XFL in the XFL’s Supplemental Draft in November of  2019, but the season was cut short when the XFL was forced to suspend operations in April of 2020. 

McCrane spent time with the practice squads of John the Arizona Cardinals (which was his third stint in Arizona at that point), and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021. Today, McCrane is a free agent. 

Ryan Reaves, Right Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins (2017-18)

A draft day acquisition by the Penguins in 2017, Reaves came to Pittsburgh with a second round pick in exchange for Pittsburgh’s first round pick and forward Oskar Sundqvist. Reaves was an instant hit with the fans, who cheered on his gritty style of hockey, which consisted of big hits, withstanding physicality, and a willingness to fight anyone on the ice and stick up for his team. 

While the deal was seen by many as an overpayment by Pittsburgh, Reaves’ playing style was exactly what then-GM Jim Rutherford wanted in his lineup. And Reaves delivered. 

Ryan Reaves (left) fights Cody McLeod in a game against Nashville. | Photo Credit: Joe Sargent

In 58 games with the Penguins, Reaves threw 161 hits, the most on the team even at a reduced number of games played. Reaves also participated in 6 fights as a Penguin, including 2 in the same game against the Nashville Predators. And while the number is very low, Reaves did score 4 goals for the Penguins as well, including a pretty goal over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury during his emotional return to Pittsburgh for the first time. 

Despite his popularity in the fan base, Reaves was not kept by the Penguins for very long. At the 2018 trade deadline, the Penguins traded Reaves to Vegas as part of a three way deal that saw the Penguins net Derick Brassard. Reaves would go on to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final as part of Vegas’ Cinderella run in their inaugural season. 

After the 2017-18 season, Reaves would spend another three seasons in Vegas, where he was also beloved by Golden Knights fans and provided his same kind of physical playing style, before being traded to the New York Rangers in the 2021 offseason. 

The acquisition of Reaves by the Rangers was seen by many as a response to the Tom Wilson incident with the New York Rangers earlier in the season, in which Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson punched Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head, and then yanked Artemi Panarin’s head by his hair and slammed him down to the ice, injuring him. Wilson was not suspended, and in the next meeting between the two teams three fights broke out within the first second of the game. 

Reaves is still a Ranger today, having signed a one year extension with the club in the off-season.

Marian Hossa, Right Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins (2007-08)

Marian Hossa, who played 32 total games (regular season and playoffs) in a Penguins uniform, has a very interesting story in his time in Pittsburgh. Coming over from the Atlanta Thrashers at the 2008 NHL Trade Deadline, the Penguins added Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, who was a very underrated part of that trade, for a package that included current Penguins broadcaster Colby Armstrong headed to Atlanta.

Hossa made an immediate impact in Pittsburgh, scoring 3 goals and adding 7 assists for 10 points in 12 regular season games. In the playoffs, he was even better, scoring 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, boosting the young upstart Pittsburgh Penguins all the way to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals before they fell to the Detroit Red Wings. 

Marian Hossa in a game for the Penguins | Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic

Hossa, who was a pending unrestricted free agent when the Thrashers traded him, opted not to re-sign in Pittsburgh, and hit the open market, where he signed with…the Detroit Red Wings.

The following year, Hossa put up a 40 goal season for the Red Wings en route to a second straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance, where they met…the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had also climbed all the way back to the Finals. This time however, it was the Penguins who would take home Lord Stanley’s fabled cup, and Marian Hossa was on the losing side of the Stanley Cup Finals for back to back years. 

After a year in Detroit, Hossa would again hit the free agent market, this time signing a very long term deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. In 57 games in his first season in Chicago, Hossa scored 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points, and scored 3 goals and added 12 assists in 22 playoff games as the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals, marking Hossa’s third straight appearance. 

This time, however, Hossa would finally hoist the Stanley Cup, as Chicago knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers in six games, with the series ending on one of the weirdest sequence of events in Stanley Cup Finals history. 

Hossa would play with the Blackhawks until 2017, winning two more Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015, when a skin condition forced him into retirement. The Blackhawks are set to retire his jersey number in Chicago, number 81, on November 20th, when they host the Penguins at United Center.

John Jaso, First Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates (2016-2017)

Spending the final two years of his Major League Baseball career in Pittsburgh, Jaso signed as a free agent with the club to start the 2016 season. 

John Jaso at bat for the Pirates. | Photo Credit: Justin Berl

John Jaso is the most recent Pirates player to hit for the cycle, which is to hit a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game. His cycle performance in September of 2016 was the first ever cycle in PNC Park, and also made Jaso the second player in league history to hit a cycle and also play catcher for a perfect game, having done the latter as catcher for Félix Hernández’s perfect game for the Seattle Mariners in 2012. 

Jaso’s time in Pittsburgh was the only time in his career he played for a National League team, and in his 258 games as a Pirate he notched a .245 batting average, accumulating 156 total hits. 

Jaso was famous, or maybe infamous, for the dreadlocks he sported while in Pittsburgh, Jaso’s hair and appearance led to many jokes about him taking being a Pirate to heart. And, in true Pirate fashion, when Jaso announced his retirement in 2017, he said he planned to sail away and travel on the sailboat he owned.