Ra'Shede Hageman enjoying draft process, trying to stay patient
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Five years ago Ra'Shede Hageman was a physically talented, but unmistakably raw prospect from Minneapolis' Washburn high school, brought in by the Minnesota Gophers to play tight end.
Any aspirations of an NFL career seemed to still be far from becoming reality.
Now, after fighting through a multitude of position changes and on and off-field issues, the eye-catching defensive tackle is three months removed from being potential a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
It's been a twisting journey for Hageman that saw rise into the national conscience of pro scouts with an impressive All-Big Ten and All-America-caliber senior season.
"I'm really just taking baby steps, embracing everything," said Hageman, who was back in Minneapolis on Monday to attend the Gophers' annual Pro Day at the team's practice facility. "It's kind of overwhelming, but it's still letting me to know to keep focusing and stay hungry. I have a goal in hand and I need to keep on reaching that."
Part of that NFL goal is to continue convincing scouts and general mangers that he is worthy of first round status.
Hageman tested out strongly at the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago, many of his numbers ranking near the top among other D-line prospects (32 reps - bench press, 35.5-inch vertical leap, 114-inch broad jump, 5.02 40-yard dash).
Already happy with his Combine results, Hageman, like his former Minnesota teammate and fellow draft prospect Brock Vereen, did not do any of the testing at Monday's Pro Day. Instead, he focused on running through various defensive line-specific drills, while representatives from more than 15 NFL teams watched on.
One major difference between the Combine and a team-specific pro day is the ability for NFL scouts and coaches to be more hands-on during the workouts. It was an entertaining sight to see new Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer walk through various defensive drills, taking guys like Hageman aside for brief one-on-one time.
Hageman said he ended up weighing in at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, up five pounds from his Combine weight.
The majority of mock drafts that have come out recently target Hageman as being picked up some where in the latter half of the first round. ESPN.com has him ranked as the No. 2 best defensive tackle available in this year's draft, sixth among defensive line prospects.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman noted that Hageman appears to have all the physical attributes one would desire in a first round selection, though there is an element of untapped potential still waiting to be harnessed on a regular basis.
"You can tell the quickness, the athletic skills, the size, everything is there," Spielman said. "He'll probably admit too, the consistency trickled off a little bit this year. When you watch the tape, some of the things athletically with his size, what he can do, at times he took over games and played at a high level."
It wasn't until the 2012 season, after being shifted from tight end to defensive end as a redshirt freshman in 2010, that Hageman finally ended up at defensive tackle.
The move ultimately proved to be the right one. Last season, Hageman showed off flashes of dominance on a Gophers defensive line that was on the rise. He recorded 38 tackles on the year, 13 of which were for a loss.
His experience in various positions gives Hageman some valued flexibility, while equipped with the understanding his development as a defensive tackle still has a ways to go.
"That's definitely one of my strengths, being able to be diverse, playing every position," Hageman said. "I think a lot of my best games are still ahead of me. I'm still learning some of the basics. I have my strengths, but I feel like there's a lot more things I need to learn. I just need to be patient."
The Combine and Monday's Pro Day were only two steps in the gauntlet of team and individual workouts that await Hageman in the next three months. After an upcoming training stop in Milwaukee, he said he eventually plans to make his way back to California, where he has done most of his offseason workouts.