Feeling at home, Hageman becomes face of Gophers football

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 12:30 PM

It took a lot of trial and error for the U football team’s most imposing player, Ra’Shede Hageman of Minneapolis, to feel comfortable in his own skin.

Stretched underneath a black cutoff tank top, across Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman’s hulking chest, are four words that act like an anthem: “Only the strong survive.” The ink is part of a patchwork of tattoos and tells a complicated story, one he’s assessed over and over in his mind. 

Sticking out as starkly as he always has, Hageman strides through the gated fence to Washburn High School’s brightly turfed football field. “Welcome to my ’hood,” he says, raising his arms at his sides, claiming his kingdom.

That domain now stretches to just about everything Hageman touches. Heading into his fifth year with the Gophers, Hageman, 23, has become a respected team leader, a role model to schoolchildren in his community and the unlikely face of Gophers football. The hope is that he’ll reach new heights in 2013, carrying his team to a breakout year in coach Jerry Kill’s third season and launching himself forward as a high-round pick in the NFL draft.

But for years, Hageman wanted to fit in seamlessly with a crowd. He was self-conscious about his size and about the skin color of his adoptive family. He harbored anger over the traumatic years in the past. At a young age, he concocted lies when strangers were faced with the truth.

Remembering, Hageman throws back his head and sighs. “I was kind of blind,” he says.

When he began to see what was there all along, it felt like redemption: Standing out is exactly what’s gotten him here.

• • •

When the 6-6, 311-pound Hageman crouches down on the defensive line, staring into the eyes of an opponent, he knows it’s his cue to release. The things that weigh him down — that have always weighed him down — come rushing like a flood through a narrow channel.

What hover between that moment and a sack or a tackle for loss are the things that make him different.

Presence. Power. Intensity. Motivation. He’s No. 99 — the biggest number on the field.

The snap sets the moments he lives for in motion.

“It’s just like an ultimate high,” he said. “Your adrenaline is running — it’s so hard to explain — when you’re on the field and you’re ready to just smash people’s heads.

“… You run full speed and you hear that cracking sound. It’s like, as soon as you hit them, you wait to hear the impact of the ground. So you hit them, and it’s usually like a two-second pause while they’re falling to the ground.

“I usually close my eyes.”

• • •

In 1997, the first time Eric Hageman and Jill Coyle saw their oldest son, they were immediately struck. Ra’Shede Knox was a head taller than the other kids at a Hennepin County Christmas party for “older” foster children, and athletically, far more advanced. The 7-year-old could launch a ball high into the air; could run with impressive speed; could execute back flips.

The strapping frame — one that can now bench 465 pounds and leap 36 inches into the air — didn’t come without competitive desire. Hageman and Coyle watched a video of Ra’Shede being interviewed about what he wanted in an adoptive family. One of his answers: “I want a family that will let me play football.”

It was the beginning of a long journey. After converting from tight end in high school to defensive end under former coach Tim Brewster to defensive tackle with Kill, Hageman has become a tenacious pass-rusher, racking up six sacks and 35 tackles last season as the Gophers doubled their win total and qualified for a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Ra’Shede Hageman: The face of Gophers football

    Saturday August 24, 2013

    The Gophers’ most imposing player, Ra’Shede Hageman of Minneapolis, finally feels confident in his own skin after a lot...

  • Gophers expect to use defensive depth in opener vs. UNLV

    Sunday August 25, 2013

    With the forecast calling for temperatures near 90 degrees for Thursday night’s season opener against UNLV, and with the Rebels expected to use a hurry-up offense, the Gophers know their...

  • Chart: Tracking Ra'Shede Hageman's career

    Saturday August 24, 2013

    THE NEED FOR ’SHEDEHere is a look at the career and potential future for Ra’Shede Hageman, a 6-6, 311-pound senior...

  • Chart: 2013 Gophers football at a glance

    Saturday August 24, 2013

    Gophers at a glanceThe Gophers open their season Thursday against UNLV at TCF Bank Stadium. Here is a quick primer...

  • 2013 Gophers football schedule

    Thursday October 31, 2013

    Gophers football scheduleAug. 29: vs. UNLV, 6 p.m.Sept 7: at New Mexico State, 7 p.m.Sept. 14: vs. Western Illinois, 11...

  • Ra’Shede Hageman enters his final year of college football after a breakout junior season. The Hageman family had dinner together and celebrated Ra’Shede’s birthday on the deck of their Minneapolis home. Younger siblings, Lizzy, 7, and Hank, 5, showed him some love. At right is another brother, Joe, 11.

  • Ra’Shede Hageman celebrated his 23rd birthday last month with his family, including his father, Eric Hageman, and 5-year-old brother, Hank. Eric and his wife, Jill Coyle, were immediately drawn to Ra’Shede when they spotted him as a 7-year-old at a Hennepin County Christmas party for foster children.

  • Hageman during a Gophers scrimmage.

  • Ra’Shede Hageman, active in the Minneapolis community, visited his old high school, Washburn, this summer. His shirt says, “Miller boys for life!”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Cleveland 11/6/14 7:25 PM
Cincinnati
Memphis 97 FINAL
Indiana 89
Cleveland 114 FINAL
Chicago 108
Philadelphia 81 FINAL
Milwaukee 93
Portland 94 FINAL
Sacramento 103
San Antonio 89 FINAL
Phoenix 94
LA Clippers 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 111
Toronto 4 FINAL
Columbus 1
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
Anaheim 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 1
Nashville 3 FINAL
Calgary 4
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 38 FINAL
Tulane 14
Tulsa 20 FINAL
Memphis 40
Air Force 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Memphis 11/7/14 6:30 PM
Temple
Utah State 11/7/14 7:00 PM
Wyoming
(12) Baylor 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(19) Oklahoma
(11) Kansas State 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(10) TCU
Hamilton 34 FINAL
Ottawa 25
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 am
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close