Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman has big appetites.
“Last year I was like 301 (pounds),” Hageman told me in July at the Big Ten football media days. “I’m 315, man.”
He likes the franchise Fresh Mex places. “It’s that Qdoba, man. Chipotle. That’s what I eat, man. It’s healthy, but I love it. You can wrap anything on a burrito, I’ll eat it.”
Hageman is a fifth-year senior for the 4-0 Gophers, who host Iowa Saturday. He is 6-foot-6, and listed at 311 pounds by his school. But he’s no lumbering lummox. He has a 36-inch vertical jump and reportedly can do a 360-degree basketball dunk.
In Minnesota’s 29-12 win over Western Illinois a weekend ago, Hageman got a quarterback sack despite having his helmet ripped off by a Leatherneck offensive lineman.
“There’s no recipe for that,” he said after the game. He really did say that.
He likes to talk about being hungry, for food and victories.
“The fact that we’re underdogs doesn’t really bother us,” Hageman said back in July. “The D-line as a whole has an appetite to make plays. The D-line is so hungry to be in the spotlight. I’ve witnessed it in the offseason. Sometimes we fist-fight because we’re so competitive.
“We’ve got to be hungry. Minnesota has been at the bottom so much it’s easy for us to be more hungry. People don’t respect us. A lot of schools have always been the top dog. When we come from the bottom and work our way up, we’re more hungry and we do a lot more just to prove people wrong.”
Hungry, hungry, hungry. This man is the hungry heart of Minnesota’s defense. It gave up 486 yards San Jose State Saturday in the Gophers’ 43-24 home win, but all but 47 of that came on the passing of sensational SJSU quarterback David Fales. Hageman was double-teamed much of the game.
But Minnesota allowed just one second-half score, and that came when the Gophers had a 43-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Last year Minnesota started the year with four nonconference wins, then got drilled at Iowa, 31-13. After their Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas loss to Texas Tech, the Gophers finished the year with a 6-7 record. But it was the best record in their last three years, and got the team believing more progress could be made this year.
“I’m definitely going to lay everything on the field,” Hageman said two months ago. “Probably to the fans, it’s gonna be scary. Just the fact I’ve developed a mentality to just work harder and improve on how I did last year. Last year everybody said that was my breakout year, but I feel like I reached comfortability just to play better, and I feel like it’s gonna be scary this year.”
Hageman blocked a field goal in Minnesota’s season-opener against UNLV, and teammate Martez Shabazz picked it up and returned it for a touchdown. Hageman blocked a PAT kick against Western Illinois.
That supports what Gopher defensive back Brock Vereen said about his much-larger teammate at that preseason media event.
“I think the scariest thing about Ra’Shede Hageman isn’t his size or his athletic ability. It’s that he’s hungrier than ever. He has this focus. You can see it in his eyes around the facility. He wants to be great. He is not satisfied with being bigger than anybody. He wants to dominate every opponent. If I’m an offensive lineman facing him, that would worry me.
“Rasheed will be an NFL star. That is a guarantee.”
Hageman wears No. 99. Appropriately, it’s the largest-possible number he can wear. He fills out the jersey.
“I’m a definitely a big breakfast person,” he said. “Eggs, omelets. I kind of want to be an omelet-maker in hotels, restaurants. Yeah, I can lay it down. Breakfast is one of my specialties.
“I eat like seven, eight eggs, you know. The normal person has two or three. I’m buying eggs constantly, man. It’s crazy. I just love eggs. Garlic powder, salt and pepper, all that, man. With some toast with jelly. I’m hungry right now, man.”
Maybe Iowa should deliver Hageman a couple of loaded burritos and a half-dozen fried eggs shortly before Saturday’s kickoff. A hungry Hageman could be a Hawkeye headache.
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