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Dedication to football paid off for Haeg: Lake Shore resident drafted by Indianapolis Colts

Janet Haeg remembers back more than a dozen years ago when her son, Joe, was an 85-pound fourth-grader playing football for Nisswa Elementary School in the Brainerd Youth Athletic Association program.

Brainerd High School graduate and North Dakota State offensive tackle Joe Haeg smiles after talking to Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after being selected 155th in the NFL Draft Saturday. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery
Brainerd High School graduate and North Dakota State offensive tackle Joe Haeg smiles after talking to Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. Haeg was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, April 30. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery

Janet Haeg remembers back more than a dozen years ago when her son, Joe, was an 85-pound fourth-grader playing football for Nisswa Elementary School in the Brainerd Youth Athletic Association program.

"Joe was tackled and landed on the football," recalled the Lake Shore mom. "I think it knocked the wind out of him because he was trying to catch his breath. And then to make things worse the referee tripped over him. Joe sat out, and didn't want to go back (to football). We talked with him, and by Tuesday he was at the next practice."

That turned out to be a good decision.

Joe Haeg went on to enjoy a stellar high school football career, including playing in two state semifinals, with the Brainerd Warriors before graduating in 2011. He continued to increase his size and strength and became a two-time All-American offensive tackle after walking on with the North Dakota State University Bison football team. He started 60 of 61 games in his college career and helped the Bison win four FCS national titles.

And then last Saturday, April 30, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Haeg had the distinction of being a fifth round selection of the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League college draft.

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"Indianapolis was one of the teams that Joe was excited to be drafted by because they were the only team that had interviewed him," said Janet, who was at home with Joe, her husband, Rick, and daughter, Laura, when the phone call came from the Colts. "We were just relaxing, and playing cards, and then Joe received the call from Indianapolis. Everything went from calm to being pretty amped up in a hurry."

As an offensive lineman, Haeg is in a good position to make the Colts' roster. The team's offensive line struggled last season, and focused on that position last week by selecting offensive linemen with four of its eight draft picks. Haeg will be participating in a variety of mini camps this summer with the Colts with a goal of making the Indianapolis squad that is scheduled to play in Minnesota against the Vikings on Dec. 18, in the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We purchased our tickets for that (Colts vs. Vikings) game right after Joe was picked," Janet said. "We're all pretty excited."

Brainerd High School football coach Ron Stolski is proud of the Haeg's accomplishments.

"Needless to say, we're extremely proud of Joe because he's not only an All-American football player," Stolski said in a Brainerd Dispatch story. "He's just an All-American man. We will hold him up as a model for our kids. I'm really happy for Joe and of course for his family."

Connection to lakes area

The Brainerd lakes area has a special connection for Joe Haeg, who is humble about his gridiron success.

He recently returned to Nisswa Elementary School, where Janet works in the library, to visit with students.

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"Some kids leave, and don't always come back home," Janet said of her son, who will soon be graduating with a degree in civil engineering. "Joe feels a strong connection to the area, and his (elementary) school."

Haeg is quickly being recognized by the lakes area for his gridiron achievements. He's already been asked to be recognized at two of the Fourth of July parades in the area.

Ironically, the last player from the Echo Journal distribution area chosen in the NFL draft was also taken by the Colts. That pick came in 1982 when Pine River-Backus High School and Florida State graduate Rohn Stark was selected in the second round by the then Baltimore Colts. Stark became a Pro Bowl punter with the franchise, which eventually moved to Indianapolis.

On other area connection to the NFL draft was Pequot Lakes football coach Chip Lohmiller, a Woodbury High School and University of Minnesota kicker who was selected by the Washington Redskins in the second round of the 1988 draft. Lohmiller went on to win a Super Bowl in 1991 for the Redskins.

The Haeg family -- Rick, Janet, Joe and Laura -- assemble for a photo at their home in Lake Shore after Joe was chosen in the fifth round by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 NFL Draft Saturday. He will travel to Indianapolis Thursday. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery
The Haeg family Rick, Janet, Joe and Laura assemble for a family photo at their home in Lake Shore after Joe was chosen in the 5th round by the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL draft Saturday. He will travel to Indianapolis Thursday to meet his coaches. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery

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