"I'm one of those players that have a lot of athletic talent, and because of that I can see myself being one those players that coaches will have a lot of fun with," said Joey Hiben.
Despite the fun and success Hiben will experience at Notre Dame next year, his senior season wasn't so rewarding. His team finished a disappointing 2-7, and Hiben was chiefly used as a blocker, rather than receiver. Thus, according to Hiben's high school football coach, Pat Foley, Hiben must work on his tight end skills.
"We didn't really use him as a tight end, so he might have to develop some tight end skills, but he's good athletically, especially at defensive end," said Foley of Hiben. "I remember when he was playing defensive end against a team that ran the option. An option play was run and Joey caused a fumble, picked up the football, and ran it in for a score."
Hiben excelled at playing defensive end at Waconia high school. He tormented quarterbacks, caused opposing coaches to scheme against him, and continually garnered double teams. Certainly, he has the athletics to play the position.
"I was recruited strictly as a tight end, but I could play defensive end," Hiben said. "I wouldn't surprise me if I played defensive end.
"I played tight end and defensive end last year, so I played the whole game pretty much. I also punted. We didn't really throw, so I didn't get the ball a lot. I also played a little tailback at the beginning of the season. The first game of the year I had nine carries for 145 yards."
Coach Foley watched Hiben progress over the course his four years coaching him, and Foley said Hiben is an impressive person and athlete, and these attributes will aid in Hiben's transition to college life next fall.
"He's hardworking, very conscious, polite, and very courteous," said Foley. "As a football player he is very intense, strong, and quick. I would say he is skilled more than anything.
"He's also so involved and coachable. When he first came out for football we had him in the interior line. Then he went both ways for his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He was really sound as a sophomore. I watched him progress, he gained weight, and he ran track"
Education is important to Hiben. The degree he would receive at Notre Dame, along with the athletic growth and personal relationship he developed with tight ends coach, Bernie Parmalee, during the recruiting process were the governing reason for him signing with Notre Dame.
"Everything Notre Dame stands for, meaning being a student and an athlete there." Hiben said in reference to why he selected Notre Dame rather than other suitors. "It's the ideal place to become a better athlete and get a degree. My third reason would be the relationship I had with the coaches. I talked with a lot of incredible coaches during my recruitment, and coach Bernie Parmalee is one of those coaches. I'm so excited to work with him. Everything he does is positive and I can really see myself connect with him"
Hiben also established a great connection with coach Weis. Coach Weis contacted Hiben during his first day as Notre Dame football coach and, like other recruits, Hiben was more than impressed.
"I talked to him his first day on the job," he said. "I could tell he's really intense, which I'm sure you've heard many times. When I talked to him I could tell he's not one of those guys who tries to sweeten everything. He's very real and intense."
Next fall Joey Hiben will head to South Bend to begin the next stage of his life. His goal, like other incoming recruits, is to first learn the system and contribute as a freshman. But if this doesn't initially happen, Hiben is will use a use the redshirt year to his advantage.
"My initial goal is that I want to play, but, mentally, I won't be backed down if I get redshirted," Hiben said. "I'll use the redshirt to my advantage."
What is also an advantage is that Hiben is an athlete who has the determination to succeed. His commitment to his own betterment is a sign that Notre Dame football will return to glory very soon.