Ex-Gopher Hageman goes to Atlanta at 37

The former Minneapolis Washburn standout goes early on the second day of the NFL draft.

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Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman poses for photos after being selected by the Atlanta Falcons as the 37th pick during the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Friday, May 9, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Photo: Jason DeCrow, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman prepared for the possibility that he wouldn’t get selected in the first round, but he couldn’t sleep Thursday night.

Pondering his future all through the night, Hageman turned off his phone, plugged in his headphones and stared out into the bright lights of his New York City hotel window wondering when he’d get his opportunity.

That came on Friday with the fifth pick in the second round when the Atlanta Falcons selected the 6-6, 310-pound defensive tackle.

“That’s the hardest game to ever play is to be patient not knowing when your name is going to be called but that’s the game I chose,” said Hageman, who celebrated the moment with his family, Washburn High head coach Giovan Jenkins and Gophers head coach Jerry Kill at his draft table. “I was patient and my opportunity came. I’m glad I’m here where I am now.”

Hageman was emotional as he walked across the Radio City Music Hall stage. He had a tissue in his hand but remained composed in the moment he’s waited for his entire life.

“I didn’t want to cry, man, but I’ve never had this type of tears of joy come out,” Hageman said. “It was my first time being so happy that the tears came. I was happy.”

During the Senior Bowl, Hageman was coached by the Falcons staff the entire week and established chemistry with Falcons head coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He had an impressive week of practice, though it didn’t exactly show in the game.

“They taught me a lot of things that I needed to be taught just the fact that ­college and the NFL is a lot different,” Hageman said.

“They let me know that and warned me about that. I’m just glad to be having another opportunity for them to coach me.”

Hageman said his phone blew the entire week with calls and texts from friends in Minnesota. They’ll get a chance to watch Hageman in his old stomping grounds at TCF Bank Stadium when the Falcons travel to the Twin Cities in Week 4 to play the Vikings.

He’s looking forward to that contest, but Hageman has bigger aspirations to wreak havoc in backfields and turn into an All-Pro defensive tackle.

But as he chowed down on a 16-ounce steak after his draft experience ended, he said the opportunity he finally received is just the beginning to what he hopes will be a long NFL career.

“Right now, this is just a steppingstone, and I have an opportunity now to really improve and show how much I want to be better, how much I want to be successful,” ­Hageman said. “And it all starts with me.”

Kill said in a statement: “I could not be more proud of Ra’Shede, as he has worked tremendously hard to get to this point. It is a special moment that he will never forget, and I am glad that his parents, his high school coach Giovan Jenkins, and [Kill’s wife] Rebecca and I were here to see it. This is not only a great moment for him, but also for our program, the University and the state of Minnesota. The Atlanta Falcons are not only getting a relentless football player, but also a college graduate. Atlanta is a great fit for Ra’Shede and his best years are still to come. I know he will continue to work hard every day to represent the Falcons, but also the Gophers, as he pursues his NFL dream.”

• Offensive tackle Billy Turner of North Dakota State was taken 67th overall by the Miami Dolphins. Turner, who is 6-5 and 315 pounds, is from Shoreview and played high school football at Mounds View.

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