Minnesota DL Ra’Shede Hageman talks about transition to NFL and possibility of playing for Patriots
|02.22.14 at 3:15 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots were a team that was racked by injury along the defensive interior over the course of the 2013 season. That, combined with the advancing age of defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, should spark some conversation about finding the next great big body in this year’s NFL draft.
Enter Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman. The defensive lineman was first-team All-Big Ten, and finished the 2013 season with 34 tackles, including 11 for loss, as well as one interception and eight pass deflections.
Hageman is a longer, leaner presence in the middle — at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, he’s built more like Richard Seymour and Kelly than Vince Wilfork. But his positional versatility can’t be overlooked: The Minnesota product was mentioned by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock as someone who could be a fit with the Patriots at No. 29, and Hageman said Saturday afternoon that he believes he has a meeting set up with New England later at the combine.
“I think Hageman from Minnesota is kind of the big question mark there,” Mayock said earlier this month when asked about New England. “If he’s still on the board — because he’s an explosive kid – he could play a couple different spots, and coach Belichick likes those versatile guys.
“He’s had some off-the-field questions attached to him, but he’s got a ton of ability and talent. So if Hageman was sitting there, I think he’d be really interesting.”
On Saturday, Hageman confessed he didn’t know much about the Patriots defensively.
“It’s 32 teams — it’s a lot to take in,” he said when asked specifically about New England against the rest of the league. “I’m pretty sure they run either a 3-4 or a 4-3. I’m capable of playing both positions. Just the fact if I had the chance to play for New England, I’d be ready.”
Hageman said Friday he tries to emulate Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Houston’s JJ Watt, saying he tries to be ‘strong and disruptive’ like Suh, but also attempts to bring the speed and technique of Watt to the field.
But the versatility is what really stands out about Hageman: He’s played multiple spots on the defensive line, including lining up on the nose, as well as wide against a tackle and tight end.
“I tell coaches I play zero-technique, all the way to a nine-[technique],” he said. “Just the fact that in college, Coach had me play three-technique to everything, so I’m very versatile. I’m comfortable playing anything they want me to play.
“It gives me different insight on how to be versatile and play a zero technique, all the way to a loose five [technique], opposite a tackle,’ he added. “I feel like me getting that comfortability in college, has helped me be able to do that at the next level.”
There were some questions about his consistency level while at Minnesota, which frequently shuffled him in and out of the lineup despite some truly dominant performances. But Hageman said it was more of a case of coach Jerry Kill looking for ‘fresh legs’ than anything else.
“I’m really not the one to ask. I’m just here to play football,” he said when asked about moving in and out of the lineup. “I really [couldn’t] ask coaches why I’m not playing a lot. I was signed up to play football, but coach Kill believed in fresh legs — three plays and out. I really can’t argue with that because he was the coach and I was the player, so I really just had to follow the rules.”
Ultimately, he believes there’s ‘no question’ he can be a three-down player in the NFL, with his strengths coming as a third-down rusher matched up singularly against an opposing offensive tackle.
“If I’m able to play a loose five, and go one-on-one with a tackle, and just get penetration, that’s one of the things I like to do,’ Hageman said. ‘But if Coach wants me to play a zero technique, or a three, I’m definitely capable of doing that as well.”
Hageman has an amazing backstory. (Check out this story on his history.) A former foster child, he now has a child of his own, and acknowledges that being a father at a relatively early age is a life-changing experience.
“It’s not an opportunity — it’s more of a job now,” he said. “It kind of motivates me to work that much harder and compete that much harder. Me having a three-year-old running around gives me more motivation to stay focused and stay hungry.”