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

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close