Ra'shede Hageman wasn't trying to boast at the Senior Bowl last week. He let his play do the talking, and then gave an honest assessment of where he felt he stood in his progression to the NFL.
Competing against the best level of offensive lineman he has come across, the defensive tackle's practice week in Mobile, Ala., somewhat mirrored his college career: at times dominating, at times dormant.
The University of Minnesota defensive tackle described his style of play as "disruptive."
"Every day I'm trying to make plays. I feel like I'm too big to be average. I'm trying to make a first impression. I'm going against the best O-line in the country at that level, so I'm definitely going to have to step it up and compete," he said.
"Being able to be disruptive and be angry when I play, obviously you've got to have that mentality when you go up against guards that are double-teaming you. I feel like I just wanted to stand out, physically as well."
He does cast an imposing presence. He measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds and flashed his potential throughout the week. At times he was showing off an impressively quick swim move and getting into the backfield as a disruptive force. At other times, he was getting handled by an offensive lineman.
"I definitely got pancaked a couple times today, but it's life. You've got to learn from it," he said.
"(Senior Bowl offensive linemen) are all good. I definitely got pancaked a couple times and I hate saying that. Just the fact in college, it was really rare. I feel like Zack (Martin) is definitely doing his thing. Pretty much everybody, just going against them I feel like they are definitely the top dogs in the country. I'm definitely getting my tail beat and I'm also punishing them as well."
That was a fair assessment of Hageman's up and down week. In fact, it was more up and down from one practice rep to the next.
Some of that is understandable. On the one hand, the University of Minnesota product who interviewed with the Vikings at the Senior Bowl is still relatively new to the position after making the switch from tight end to defensive tackle three years ago. But his build presents the physique of an athlete that could be dominating with more work on his technique and consistency.
"I've never done some of the things they had me do before, but I'm just trying to learn and just be flexible. But college is a different setting from the NFL, so the things they had me do I feel like I can definitely use to that my advantage at the next level," Hageman said.
"Just stopping the run a lot more, getting hands-on. You really can't stab with one arm all the time like you can in college. (My position coach) is just teaching me how to get my hands in and lock them in on a man."
It's hard to know exactly where Hageman will fit in the NFL. He has played nose tackle, defensive tackle, and defensive end for the Gophers. He has the athleticism to be an imposing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme or a quick three-technique in a 4-3. He also has the size to be a stout nose tackle in a 4-3.
With the hybrid defenses that are becoming more prevalent in the NFL, that versatility could be a boost to his NFL stock.
"Most definitely. It definitely changes the game up and you have to be able to catch up," he said. "I feel the coaches are giving me a good look at what I'm going to face at the professional level. I'm going out here to soak up all the advice that they have."
Hageman was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2013 by the coaches and media and named third-team All-American by Athlon Sports after a registering 38 tackles, including 13 for a loss, and an interception last year.
As a junior, he had 35 tackles and 7½ tackles for a loss.
Already, Hageman is bigger than one of the more dominant defensive tackles in the NFL, Detroit's Ndamukong Suh. Suh is listed as 6-4, 307 – two inches shorter and 11 pounds lighter than Hageman. But "Swags" is the player Hageman patterns his game after.
"Just his aggressiveness and athleticism," Hageman said. "I feel like I put that in a ball and kind of use that."
If he can do that on a more consistent basis, the potential appears to be there for the expected first-round choice.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
DT Hageman defined by disruption, diversity
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