10 Minutes With Kole Heckendorf

Kole Heckendorf grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin about an hour and a half from Green Bay. And this week, he's hoping to make the roster as a Packers wide receiver. Scout.com's Ed Thompson talked with the rookie who was North Dakota State's all-time leading receiver with 178 catches for 2,732 yards.

Ed Thompson: Let's talk a little bit about your training camp experience and what it's been like so far being a Green Bay Packer.

Kole Heckendorf: It's been a dream come true. Being from a small, small town in Wisconsin and then going to a smaller college, and then getting the opportunity to play with the Green Bay Packers has been not only cool for me, but cool for my family and friends in Wisconsin. I think everyday is just a blessing that I get to go out and practice with the guys like (Donald) Driver, (Greg) Jennings, (Jordy) Nelson, and other players on the team. I never thought I would be in this situation, but I always gave myself a chance and take it a day at a time. I'm having fun out there.

Thompson: Kole, I read in your blog at WSAW.com that you feel like things are getting easier for you. But what have been the biggest adjustments for you?

Heckendorf: The biggest thing coming in was learning that playbook. In high school you didn't even have a playbook, you just knew the plays because there were so little of them. In the first couple years of college our playbook was maybe a third of the Green Bay playbook, but it seemed like it took me a good two years to fully understand the playbook and the offense. So when I came in here, I'm thinking, "jeez I only have a month to learn this"--and as a rookie free agent if you don't know it, you aren't going to get your opportunity. But I think with the things I learned from college, it seems like I grasped the offense right away. Any free time I had, I was looking at the playbook. If you don't know what you're doing out there, you're not going to look good. And that was the biggest concern I had coming in, feeling comfortable out there. With the help of all the wideouts and the quarterbacks, I really understand the offense so far. There are always things I can work on, but I feel comfortable with it so far, and I just keep moving forward.

Thompson: Kole do you think you've surprised some people with your speed and your hands?

Heckendorf: Yeah, I would like to think so. Coming out of college, I was known to some people, but not like a "wow" factor, like people thinking this guy has a really good chance. I came in thinking I've got nothing to lose, put everything out there, give it my best and see what happens. I think I've shaken some heads. I know after the first couple of days I started to get a lot of compliments from different players. Al Harris--I don't know if he just loves my name or loves saying my name--but every time I make a play in practice, Al is yelling Heckendorf, or Heck, or something like that. It feels good to have the players respect you and respect your ability out there.


Kole Heckendorf makes an over-the-shoulder catch during training camp.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Thompson: It's obvious that you've got a lot of admiration for Packers veteran wide receiver Donald Driver. You made a comment in your blog that you couldn't believe that his body has held up through all the punishment of the NFL for 12 years. Talk a little bit about what you've learned from him, and about some of the talent that he brings to the field that has been really impressive to you.

Heckendorf: He's a great guy. You watch practice and honestly, there are some days where that second practice, it's tough going back out there. And you look at him anytime out there and he has a smile on his face and he's having fun out there. He's that guy in the locker room who's helping guys out. The first two weeks I would run a route and Driver would come over and just kind of say "hey, you're the third read on that route, so you can take your time and really give that guy a move, and then come back out of it." It's nice when you've been playing that long, you're that good, and you know you have a job, so you can help some of us who are fighting for jobs out there and who under a little more pressure. The thing with him is he has fun out there and he loves what he does.

Thompson: So how do the veterans treat the rookies? What are some of the toughest things you guys have had to do for the veterans?

Heckendorf: Actually, it's kind of funny, because I was prepared to have to sing the school song or do this and that, but the guys really haven't had anything like that. There have been a couple of things in the dorm like water buckets. Today I had to go pick up food for the guys, but they didn't make me pay for it, which was good. They understand that I'm a rookie free agent, so they made Jordy (Nelson) pay for it since he was the second-round pick last year. They really don't make you do anything you don't want to do.

Thompson: Give us a few impressions of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Heckendorf: All my friends are disappointed that I don't get to play with Brett Favre. They wish I would've had the chance to catch a pass from him. I've never played with Brett Favre or watched him in person, but the things Aaron does in practice are just unbelievable. Aaron has characteristics at a level that I haven't seen in a quarterback, with being smart, and teaching a play differently. He's a great quarterback and I'm glad he is my quarterback.

Thompson: You mentioned Brett Favre, and I'm sure some eyebrows raised a little bit when it looked like he wasn't going to play and then out of the blue here comes Brett Favre to play for the rival Vikings. What was the reaction that first day?

Heckendorf: It was funny, because I don't think anyone brought it up the whole day. We left practice that afternoon, and a couple of player personnel people told us that Brett Favre was in Minnesota just to give us a heads up if someone talks about it during an interview. I don't think it came up hardly at all in the locker room. We just kept to our business with ourselves. Brett's not a Packer anymore, and we've got other things to worry about. It won't be a hassle in Green Bay anymore.

Thompson: What do you think you're going to need to between now and the final cuts to stick with this Green Bay Packers team?

Heckendorf: It's tough to say. I can't worry about being cut, not being cut. I've just got to keep doing my best and take it a day at a time. But it will be interesting to see what they do and to find out if I will be in Green Bay or will get an opportunity somewhere else. I told my dad the other day that if someone is paying me to play football, I'll play. If it's on the roster or on a practice squad, I'll be more than happy to help the Packers out or any other team. You can stress out about it as much as you want, but it's not in my hands, so I'll just keep working hard and see where it takes me.

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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.


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