When Joe Haeg was in ninth grade he was playing football on the B-squad.
He ended up walking on at North Dakota State, and now the former Bison offensive tackle has the opportunity to play at the next level: the NFL.
Haeg, whose name may be called during the league’s draft that starts Thursday, said he’s used to playing the role of underdog.
“I’ve embraced the whole underdog story my entire career,” Haeg said. “It’s kind of part of who I am, accepting the challenge and going out there and proving everyone wrong.”
The Lake Shore, Minnesota, native most likely will hear his name called no later than the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft.
Haeg said he’s had about 10 private workouts leading up to draft day but no actual visits. If he gets drafted, though, he said it’ll be a dream come true.
“A lot of teams that are really interested in me have me in their top 100 picks, but anything can happen on draft day,” Haeg said. “Whatever happens happens, it’s just crazy how it goes. Heck, even if I fall to the seventh round I’d still be getting drafted, which is amazing to say.”
In a green and gold uniform, Haeg started 60 of 61 games and was named an All-American twice at his left tackle position.
But at the professional level, Haeg may have to switch positions on the offensive line; however, he said that he’s comfortable with all four positions on the line.
“Honestly I think versatility is a huge part of this process,” Haeg said about his next level position. “Every team has different needs on their offensive line. If you add them all together, there’s teams that want me at all four positions, just being able to be versatile play both guard and tackle on both sides I think that’s something I’m very capable of doing.”
Haeg will graduate in May from NDSU with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and said that being at NDSU has helped him tremendously in preparing for the NFL.
“I think that (it’s) the rigor of the off-season workouts that we take part in,” Haeg said. “It’s not a part-time thing. It’s not during the season you’re going all out and in the off-season it just kind of drags along, but our strength staff has done an amazing job continuing to push us, as well as the coaches.
“Just being able to be in a pro-system like NDSU has been extremely helpful.”
Haeg was back in Fargo for the spring game last Saturday, and said it was nice to see all the players and coaches one more time before draft weekend.
“That was awesome. We have the best fans in the nation, I honestly truly believe that,” Haeg said. “Being back in the Fargodome was awesome seeing the fans and all the other players … we had a senior banquet that night, which was awesome, and it was awesome to see the guys again and really kind of just get one last final sendoff from NDSU”
Haeg will be watching the draft back home with his family and friends on Saturday, “keeping it small, just trying to keep it as a relaxed environment as I can,” Haeg said.
Haeg has been on quite a football journey since his high school days. And this weekend one NFL team is going to draft the 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman.
“I’m sure you could find 500 different mock drafts that have me going from first round to the seventh round,” Haeg said. “It’s just something you don’t think about. You’re just excited for the opportunity to see what team you’re going to and being able to embrace it.”