Mid-Missourians who had long wondered what became of Rex Hodge’s ubiquitous face on their NBC affiliate were startled to learn this week that one-time KOMU anchor was living in a 1,200-acre woodland in Moniteau County. Surrounded by nearly 100 of what he calls “benevolent castaways,” Hodge claimed he had been living in the Plowboy Bend forest for nearly 20 years. He might have gone further unnoticed for the rest of his life had it not been for a statewide search for former Missouri football Defensive Coordinator DeMontie Cross.
Cross left the Tiger sidelines in September after his team spiraled into obscurity and became the joke of the SEC. A Mizzou alum, Cross had been a passionate advocate for instate recruiting. Once Cross was gone, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson dubbed Mizzou’s castaway “a better quote than coordinator.”
“He wrote that?” Cross said in a soft voice while tanning a deer pelt on a river rock. “I so wish he could see me now.”
Now, Cross is one of dozens of Hodge’s disciples who practice what the TV man calls “Passive Progress.”
Hodge, who has taken the name Walter Williams, teaches his castaways that divinity is found in the acceptance of one’s ostracism.
“Here, on the river, we can learn more about our true spirit than we ever could have if we had stayed in the real world and been passed over time and time again by vastly inferior minds,” Hodge said. “DeMontie, as he was called before he came to us and became a PassProg, had a space in his heart that working under a petty tyrant would never be able to fill. I hope in time he knows that coming here and not accepting the JV coching job at that high school in Fulton was the right decision.”
Since arriving at the riverside commune, Cross–who now calls himself Dan Devine–has taken on a duel role at Hodge’s side. Cross is responsible for both security and bringing new castaways into the fold.
“Rex thought I was suited for it,” Cross said, admitting that it’s not gone as well as he hoped. “I worked really hard on it and came up with what looked like a good game plan, but I let several people escape.”
Hodge said, “If you thought his defense leaked like a colander against Missouri State, you should have seen him when Mr. and Mrs. Maples broke for the main road. It was humiliating in a way only Barry Odom could understand.”
Nevertheless, Cross is promising big things in the winter months.
“I’m going to be using the same strategy I put together earlier this year. I’ve seen some very promising candidates in the St. Louis and Kansas City area,” Cross said. “I know Rex is going to be here for them just as he was for me. It’s now my job to make sure they understand that. Like I said before, we’ve got to make sure we get them all, not just one of them.”
Cross said he has a lot more plans, but he cut the interview short when a man identified as Mr. Kim Anderson cut loose from the group and jumped into the Missouri River.
“I’ll be back,” Cross said.
Hodge studied his hands for a moment before watching Cross flail toward Anderson’s juking frame. “Fascinating,” he said.
Hodge admitted that his flock’s numbers have dwindled in recent months, and he’s not yet sure if Cross’ efforts are as effective as he’d hoped.
“If I can speak candidly,” Hodge said, “I feel like we were recruiting better before he got here. But, I’m not going to worry about it. I was saving a tent for Barry Odom, but since it seems like he won’t be using it now, it’s free for Butch Jones.”