Brainerd High School graduate and former Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Joe Haeg signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday, March 20.
“I think a lot of things came into play with Tampa,” Haeg said. “My former o-line coach Joe Gilbert, who was with me for two years in Indianapolis, he’s there now. They also provided an opportunity that I was excited about. Going into it I know they were interested in me. It all piled up with a perfect storm and I was very happy to end up with the Bucs.”
In the deal, he has a chance to earn up to $3.3 million.
The Buccaneers have been in the news all week because they landed former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Haeg is excited about the possibility of blocking for the six-time Super Bowl champion.
“He’s obviously been doing it for a very long time at a very high level,” Haeg said of Brady. “It will be cool to be a part of that helping out any way I can. I’m just excited to get there and meet everybody and get to work.”
Haeg played in 16 games as a reserve last season for the Indianapolis Colts after starting 35 of 39 games played over his first three seasons with the team.
He’s happy to have a chance to prove he can be a starter in the NFL with Tampa Bay.
“Going into free agency we knew I would have added value with my versatility,” Haeg said. “I can play multiple positions, but also knew they had an opportunity for me to compete for a starting spot and that’s all I really wanted. I loved my time in Indianapolis, but it got to the point where they had their five guys — and they are all great dudes, I’m happy for all of them — but I’m also looking for my opportunity to show what I’m capable of.”
A 2010 graduate of Brainerd High School, Haeg played for head coach Ron Stolski, who recently retired after 45 years. Haeg helped the Warriors reach the state semifinals in both his junior and senior seasons.
“The guy is a living legend,” Haeg said of Stolski. “He had a great impact on me and my career. In those early days, it’s such an important thing to build that work ethic and that team mindset. That’s something I have taken with me at every level. I can’t thank him enough. He turned a lot of boys into men. It was special to be a part of.”
Haeg was coached by Warriors offensive line coach Chet Stevenson, who along with Stolski retired after 44 years coaching alongside him.
“He is just as much responsible as anyone else,” Haeg said of Stevenson. “Chet is a guy who influenced me early on. He forced me to get in the weight room, and not just force but really embrace the grind and the work ethic, the mentality you have to have to be an o-lineman. He believed in me early, and it was a pleasure to play for him.”
Haeg said he received other offers — including some two-year offers — but landed on the Tampa Bay’s one-year deal.
“We felt like one-year was the best for me,” Haeg said. “Either I���m going to play well or not. So it just comes down to going out this year, proving it, and then going into next year — I would love to stay with the Bucs. The main thing was I wanted to go and prove to everybody that this is what I can do and take full advantage of the opportunity.”