He could make everybody laugh. He was always smiling. He was brutally honest.
That’s how friends remember 19-year-old Eric Hodgest, a redshirt freshman linebacker on Eastern New Mexico University’s football team. Hodgest died early Sunday morning in a car crash on Interstate 40 in Amarillo.
“This type of thing happening to somebody you know is kind of crazy, you never really believe it,” said Eric Patton, president of Kappa Psi Alpha fraternity of which Hodgest was a member. “I don’t think I’ve grasped it yet that I’m not going to see him like tomorrow or later on today.
“We’re going to miss his sense of humor.”
Hodgest was driving a 1997 red Pontiac Grand Am westbound on I-40 in Amarillo when a woman driving a 2000 Lincoln struck the back of his vehicle at 1:05 Sunday morning, according to a news release from the Amarillo Police Department.
Hodgest died at the scene. The female driver was booked in the Potter County Correction Center on charges of intoxication manslaughter, the news release said.
The woman was not named in the news release.
ENMU football coach Bud Elliott said Greyhound players will miss Hodgest.
“He had a lot of good friends on the team,” Elliott said. “He was just a bubbly kind of guy and a pretty good football player.”
Sophomore redshirt linebacker Mark Baca, who played some football in Tampa, Fla., remembers getting into an argument with Hodgest about which state — Texas or Florida — had a bigger high school football following.
Hodgest won that bet after he took Baca to a football game at his former high school — Palo Duro High in Amarillo — and more than 15,000 fans were in attendance.
“He told me: ‘This is Texas football; I know Florida doesn’t have this big of a crowd’ (and after seeing the fans) I told him, ‘Yeah you’re right,’ ” Baca said.
Baca described Hodgest as extremely honest, and recalls the time Hodgest told him he wasn’t playing good football because he was thinking too much on the field.
“He’s really honest with you as a friend, whether it hurts you or not,” Baca said. “He just left it at that, but I knew what he was talking about.”
While the two met through football, Baca said their friendship went beyond the gridiron.
“Eric was the type of guy who made you feel like you were one of his close friends, he was like family,” Baca said. “I helped him through a lot of problems, he helped me through a lot of problems — it was kind of like a brotherhood.
“A good person has left and I think it was too early … If you really got to know him the way I did you’d feel pretty clamped up about it.”