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

NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: T. Roark 4
Baltimore - WP: U. Jimenez 5 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 4
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 7 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar 1
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 10
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Petricka 3 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 4
Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels 0 FINAL
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 2
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Wood 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 3
Tampa Bay - WP: A. Cobb 6 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2
Houston 0 Top 8th Inning
Texas 2
St. Louis 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Chicago Cubs 3
Arizona 1 Top 8th Inning
Minnesota 6
LA Angels 0 Top 2nd Inning
Oakland 0
San Francisco 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Los Angeles 3
Colorado 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Diego 0
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New England 9/29/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Carolina 0 FINAL
Buffalo 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Columbus 2
Boston 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Nashville 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Toronto 4
Detroit 1 3rd Prd 9:53
Chicago 1
San Jose 2 3rd Prd
Vancouver 2
Arizona 2 1st Prd 1:21
Anaheim 0
Vancouver 9:30 PM
San Jose
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
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 pm
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close