When Birmingham Legion FC was looking for the players – and captain – that would lead its charge into the USL eCup: Rocket League Edition, the club did the most logical thing you could.
It turned to its supporters in the Magic City Brigade to lead recruitment.
And when regular gamer Kaylor Hodges rolled off his history with the game, the choice became obvious.
“The [Magic City Brigade] were like, ‘Alright, is anybody any good at this?’” Hodges told the USL’s Kelsi Steel in a Zoom chat this week. “I didn’t think too much about it, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m OK, I’ve been playing since release and I’ve got about 1,500 hours, no big deal,’ and so they were like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s cool.’
“Then I get a DM and it’s like, ‘hey, you’re playing in this thing called the eCup, congratulations.’ I was kind of volun-told to do it, but I’m really glad that it happened because I didn’t think it was going to turn into something this big. I am very happy about finding out about it.”
Hodges has secured his place in the USL eCup’s Round of 16 thanks to a pair of impressive victories in Group 8 and goes into Friday’s game against rival Memphis 901 FC (4 p.m. ET | ESPN3) looking for a clean sweep. With the amount of time he’s put into the game since it was launched in 2015, he appears to be one of the main contenders for the crown, and has been using his knowledge of the game to help those who are newer to the gaming world get a keener grasp on the tactics and nuances.
After his victory on Tuesday afternoon against FC Tulsa, Hodges released an analysis of his performance, giving some added insight into what fans should be watching for as the tournament continues.
“I am massive into breaking things down,” said Hodges. “From me playing my instrument, to watching soccer, to Rocket League stuff, I love watching film, so to me it seemed like a no-brainer. This is something I enjoy doing, and because certain people have enjoyed the eCup, maybe people would enjoy watching me talk about my own game. I thought it would be something I would release, talk about my own thought process.”
A music education student at the University of Alabama, Hodges’ has been a longtime follower of soccer in Birmingham, having supported the amateur Birmingham Hammers prior to Legion FC’s arrival. The announcement that professional soccer was coming to Alabama, though, was one that only added to the movement that was building for the sport in the city.
“When I found out that Legion was becoming a thing, and we were moving to the USL, I could not be more excited,” said Hodges. “I had already had experience with watching USL through FC Cincinnati, so I knew all about the league, I knew all about the teams and a lot of the players in there, so I was so stoked just to know that … I would not only be watching players who were paid to play, but play at a very high level. I was beyond excited.”
After matching Legion FC’s achievements in its inaugural season of reaching the knockout rounds of the event, Hodges now has a chance to try and make a run at a title. As someone so strongly in tune with the club – and the fundraising effort the tournament is providing for the Birmingham Strong Fund – it’s an opportunity he’s embracing wholeheartedly.
“Honestly, this has been the best part of this whole experience, because knowing that not only am I the face of trying to raise this money, trying to help my organization raise money for something that’s a lot deeper than USL, and soccer, and Rocket League itself, it’s been massive for me,” said Hodges. “Just being part of that has been fantastic, and I’ve had a lot of people message me in private tell me that during this whole break, I’ve been one of the things that has helped them so far. If I can give someone a quick some on the face through this terrible, different time, that’s all that really matters to me.”