MOBILE, Ala. – Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman and Miami (Fla.) offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson have known each other since middle school while growing up in the Twin Cities.
It wasn’t through football, but rather basketball. The two 6-6 NFL prospects said their relationship dates to the seventh grade. With their collegiate journeys taking them on different routes, Hageman and Henderson have crossed paths once again this week at the Senior Bowl with a professional future ahead.
“I feel like we’re both putting on, representing for Minnesota,” Henderson said.
Henderson opted to leave the state, unlike Hageman, and has been attempting to reshape his image this week after some issues that occurred at Miami. The 331-pounder said he has the talent to be a first-round draft pick, which would be hard to argue physically, but he was suspended three times in college and admitted to the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that the suspensions were related to marijuana use.
“I just look to show that I’m a hard worker and I have great character,” Henderson said. “I felt like I had some bad press in the media that made teams in the NFL think that I’m kind of a bad guy or a knucklehead. I just felt like I made a couple bad decisions, and I think that I deserve a chance to play in the NFL and that I’m a first-rounder.’’
Henderson was rated the second-best recruit in the country in the Class of 2010, according to Rivals.com. He led Cretin-Derham Hall to a Class 5A state title during his senior season of 2009 and initially signed with Southern California before switching to Miami in the wake of the Trojans’ NCAA sanctions.
He didn’t live up to high expectations. Henderson was named to his first all-Atlantic Coast Conference team in 2013 — the third team. He was limited to playing right tackle because of a nerve problem in his left hip. Henderson said he has gained enough strength now to play both tackle positions.
Hageman and Henderson are on the North team for the Senior Bowl, so they’re learning under the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff. Henderson said former Vikings coach Mike Tice, who recently joined the Falcons as offensive line coach, has taught him how to be explosive off the ball and where to position his shoulders in pass protection.
Said Hageman: “We’re representing, and I have to shout out to Seantrel; he’s doing his thing as an aggressive offensive tackle.”
Hageman, a 318-pounde, was ranked as one of the top tight ends in the country during his days at Minneapolis Washburn. He made the transition to defense with the Gophers, and he has been one of the most impressive prospects this week and has been touted as a first-round selection. Hageman has run over offensive linemen during one-on-one periods and has taken advantage of his frame by bull-rushing.
“I feel like that’s my go-to,” Hageman said. “As I showcase my talent to the scouts, I feel like you have to stick to what you know. You don’t want to do too much experimenting. They’re going to critique you and watch you, so I feel like going out and giving my fastball every time.”
Henderson and Hageman both said it would be a neat experience to play in their hometown with the Vikings, but they’re just as open to playing for the other NFL 31 teams. Both know they can’t get picky.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to fight for a job,” Hageman said. “He understands that, and I understand that.”