MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The annual pro day workout at Minnesota rarely ranks high on an NFL team’s list. The draft prospects participating are usually long shots at best.
Here, then, was the latest sign of Ra’Shede Hageman’s rising profile: Hageman skipped the skills tests on Monday because they were no longer a necessary part of his audition, his strong impression already made at the league’s scouting combine.
“I feel like it was another day in the office,” Hageman said.
With 19 of 32 NFL teams represented, Hageman took part in specific drills for defensive linemen. But after bench-pressing 225 pounds 32 times, third-most at his position, and posting a 35½-inch vertical leap in Indianapolis last weekend, Hageman solidified his case as a potential first-round pick.
At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds with arm length of more than 34 inches, Hageman has pro size. His challenge will be developing the technique for and understanding the defensive tackle position. After switching from tight end after his redshirt season, Hageman had a lot to learn. He’s still raw, as evidenced by his inconsistent on-field production, even as a senior.
With more than two months before the draft, now the goal has become staying in shape.
“I’m just going to barricade myself in my room and just play video games and work out,” Hageman said. “Kind of stay out of the public and focus on the main goal.”
He’ll be working out in Milwaukee with Houston star and former Wisconsin standout J.J. Watt for a bit, then back in Southern California where his agents are based, all the while carefully watching his diet.
“I’ve been eating a lot of green food. That’s not really my most favorite thing to do, but it’s going to benefit me and work out in the long run,” Hageman said.
The last time a Gophers player was drafted in the first round was 2006, when running back Laurence Maroney went to New England. Prior to that was cornerback Willie Middlebrooks in 2001 by Denver. They’re the only ones picked in the first or second round since 1990. Tight end Matt Spaeth (2007, Pittsburgh) and wide receiver Eric Decker (2010, Denver) were the only third-rounders in that span.
Hageman, who played at Washburn High on the city’s south side, is also in position to become the first product of the Minneapolis public schools to reach the NFL in several generations. Some, like Arizona star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, grew up in the state’s largest city but attended a private school.
“I feel like a lot of my better games are still ahead of me,” Hageman said. “I just have to be patient.”
Also among the eight former Gophers, plus a smattering of area small-college hopefuls, who worked out for NFL teams on Monday was safety Brock Vereen. He’s projected as a late-round pick at best, but the brother of New England running back Shane Vereen also gave his stock a big boost with some remarkable numbers at the combine.
His 4.47-second 40-yard dash time was the second-fastest among safeties, and his 25 repetitions on the bench press led all participants at his position. So like Hageman, he focused only on defensive back drills for the scouts, coaches and executives at the university practice field on Monday.
“You can run as fast as you can, you can bench 500 times, but if you can’t carry it over to the football field it doesn’t mean anything,” Vereen said. “So hopefully trying to prove that it carries over for me.”
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had praise for Vereen.
“Just how smart he is and aware he is when you watch the tape on him, and then he goes to the combine and blows out the 40,” Spielman said. “That really opened a lot of peoples’ eyes.”
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