Hagemann big man in big pond

Nick Hagemann grew up in a town of 400 people and went to college in a state comprised of 755,000 people. Everything about Hagemann screams small town, except for the man himself. The rookie right tackle is 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, or almost the size of Josh Burr, the last Coyote to work with the Steelers.

Burr hung around as a member of the practice squad for two years before an injury and slow feet doomed his chance. You might say Burr's chances faded on the Field of Dreams, which is where Nick Hagemann grew up.

A native of New Vienna, Iowa, Hagemann grew up one mile from the legendary Field of Dreams in Dyersville. Both of his parents were farmers, but Hagemann naturally thought he would be a baseball player.

"Baseball is real big there," said Hagemann. "All summer long, all we did was play baseball every day. That's what we did growing up."

Did he play on the Field of Dreams?

"I played once out there. There are only tourists there, so you don't even bother with it much. They have a game like once a month with what they call Ghost Players -- local guys who pretend they're coming out of the corn like in the movie."

Hagemann outgrew baseball to become a star basketball player in high school, but South Dakota offered him a football scholarship and he took it. Even though it was a Division II school, Hagemann was proud of his only offer and moved into the starting lineup his redshirt freshman season.

He started six games at left tackle as a freshman and moved to guard as a sophomore. Hagemann moved back to left tackle his junior and senior seasons.

As a junior majoring in computer science he was an Academic all-conference performer and as a left tackle as a senior he was second-team all-conference.

The Coyotes led the nation in scoring (49.7 ppg.) his senior year, when they averaged 583 yards of offense and 268 rushing yards per game. The big-name players were All-America junior back Stefan Logan and senior quarterback Wes Beschorner, who finished second for the Harlon Hill Trophy to East Stroudsburg QB Jimmy Terwilliger. South Dakota finished 9-2 last season.

"There were four of us seniors on the offensive line, and our quarterback was the runner-up for, like, the Division II Heisman. He was unbelievable. We just had a good team," Hagemann said.

After the season, Hagemann played in the Cactus Bowl as a Division II all-star and won the Jim Langer Award as the game's best offensive lineman. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent and will work as a right tackle at training camp.

"I didn't think I'd get drafted because of where I was," he said. "To get drafted from Division II you've really got to stand out. There are only a few guys who get drafted. I knew I'd be picked up as a free agent and here I am."

Hagemann's hobby is throwing the hammer in track-and-field. He said his long arms and long body are the reasons he grew into All-American status in the sport.

"I can chuck that thing," he said.

And his chances with the Steelers?

"Right tackle feels like home," he said. "This is the same offense I was in for the last five years, just on the right side, so I'm used to it. But I'm just taking it day by day because everyone's fighting for the same thing."

They're fighting for a chance to play on Pittsburgh's version of the Field of Dreams.

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