Ra'Shede Hageman is digging in at defensive tackle for new Gophers coach Jerry Kill but still hasn't forgotten his pass-catching glory days.
The answers are honest and straightforward, full of bluntness about his weaknesses and determination to improve.
But ask Ra'Shede Hageman about whether he misses playing tight end, and his bearing changes. His head tilts back, his eyes grow wistful, and he exhales a heavy sigh.
"I definitely miss it," the 20-year-old defensive tackle says, sounding a little like a senior citizen recalling a schoolboy crush from decades ago. "Those were the good ol' days."
He's right; they were pretty good. Hageman was once an all-state pass-catcher at Washburn High, a offensive phenom who could crush unwary linebackers and soar to an altitude far beyond where someone his size had any business reaching. "I used to play basketball, and a football in the air was like a rebound," said Hageman, who snatched 11 of them for touchdowns his senior year. "Even now, I'll be mad if a tight end misses a ball. But that's just something I've got to get over."
That's because Hageman's body betrayed him -- by growing beyond the point where he's mobile enough to catch passes effectively. "I'm 300 [pounds] now," he said, "so those tight-end days are over."
Don't get the idea that the sophomore is unhappy, though, or that he's not committed to his position, his team or his coach. It's not true, Hageman said, though he heard plenty of false rumors over the winter: He's flunking out. He hates the coaches. He's unhappy with his playing time, or with the position switch.
"People aren't inside, so they don't know the situation. They just talked," said Hageman, who was removed from the roster for the final three games last season by interim coach Jeff Horton, who said he wanted Hageman to focus on his academics. "My grades are good, and I'm maintaining the GPA I need to. But rumors spread, and I can't worry about what other people said."
Here's what he would like them to say now: He's finally turning into the football player he always expected himself to be. Trouble is, Hageman is his own toughest critic.
"I feel like I'm getting better, but I've still got a lot of things to work on, especially my pad level," said the 6-6 Hageman. "It's a game of leverage and angles. I've got to get lower than the person I'm hitting, but I'm so tall, I've got to keep reminding myself of that."
Playing tackle, usually right across from the center, is an adjustment, too, for a player used to having plenty of room to operate at the end of the line. "The coaches are helping me learn new techniques to stay in there and make the tackle," he said. "I just have to make the space myself. ... I've got to blow them up."
He's making progress, but he still occasionally earns the wrath of coach Jerry Kill with his mistakes. That's true, Kill said, and he's sympathetic to a player who will enter his third camp intending to play his third position.
"I'd not be honest if I didn't say you need to get a kid settled in and let him learn how to play -- say, 'This is who you're going to be, this is what you're going to do, and here's how to do it,' and let him get some repetitions," Kill said. "Going from a tight end to defensive player, that's a huge adjustment."
|Seattle - LP: C. Furbush||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Smith||10|
|Tampa Bay - LP: J. Lueke||5||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: R. Dickey||7|
|NY Yankees - C. Sabathia||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - F. Garcia|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - S. Marcum|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels||6:10 PM|
|Miami - A. Sanabia|
|Minnesota - K. Correia||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - J. Teheran|
|Oakland - B. Colon||7:05 PM|
|Texas - J. Lindblom|
|Los Angeles - C. Kershaw||7:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo|
|Boston - J. Lester||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - D. Axelrod|
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||7:10 PM|
|Houston - D. Keuchel|
|Arizona - P. Corbin||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - J. Garland|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - J. Marquis|
|Washington - Z. Duke||9:15 PM|
|San Francisco - R. Vogelsong|