From being a walk-on at North Dakota State University to a fifth-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts, Joe Haeg's football journey has been a big deal in Brainerd. His story was told over the weekend in a story by Mike Bialka of the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper that traced Haeg's growth into a 305-pound offensive lineman.
The news was greeted in Brainerd by a mix of pride and humility.
The humility was from Haeg's father, who told Bialka: "I'm just the next-door neighbor kind of guy who got lucky to have a kid who grew to the size that he did I was always in sports so we got Joe into sports when he could. He played all of them to keep him busy. It's good to keep kids busy to keep them out of trouble. ...We've got a great community in Brainerd that's just buzzing over this whole thing. That the community is having so much fun with it, it's just great."
The pride was expressed by Chet Stevenson, who was the offensive line coach when Haeg played a Brainerd, an outstate school that plays in the state's largest class: "When he was a sophomore, he was just a tall, skinny kid with great feet. He just had this willingness to work real hard. We had a little conversation after football ended that fall. He said he had been playing hockey and he was thinking about not going out for hockey. I said if you decide to do that, find me in the weight room because you have some tools. I could see the potential with his size and height that he could be real special."
Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star offered this take on Haeg: "The second offensive tackle the Colts have taken this week, Haeg blocked for the draft’s second overall pick – quarterback Carson Wentz – and was a four-year starter at North Dakota State. There are strength concerns, but he is a seasoned blocker that joins a group of Colts’ tackles that already includes Anthony Castonzo, Joe Reitz, Denzelle Good and third-round pick Le’Raven Clark."
Before the draft, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune wrote this story about Haeg, whose only scholarship offer was a partial one from North Dakota, which he spurned after a change in coaches to go to NDSU, winner of the last five Football College Subdivision titles.
"It was kind of a no-brainer for me," Haeg said.
In another story that appeared in the Fargo Forum, Haeg knew the Colts had some interest: “I had an official meeting with them at the (NFL) Combine. They were the only team that I actually did have a meeting with – I had unofficial meetings with a lot of teams. I had a great talk with Coach (Chuck) Pagano, their entire staff, the general manager, the owner. I definitely knew they were a team I wanted to play for.”
That story is here. And if you want to rule at NFL draft trivia, that story also includes the names of the other two players from Brainerd who were taken in previous drafts in years gone by.