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Haeg thinks of home as NFL draft looms

While his heart remains in the area, Joe Haeg's ambition outgrew his hometown of Lake Shore. Now, the 6-foot, 6-inch Brainerd graduate and North Dakota State University offensive lineman is mere days from becoming a professional football player. ...

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Jan 26, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad offensive tackle Joe Haeg of North Dakota State (59) stretches before the start of Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

While his heart remains in the area, Joe Haeg's ambition outgrew his hometown of Lake Shore.

Now, the 6-foot, 6-inch Brainerd graduate and North Dakota State University offensive lineman is mere days from becoming a professional football player.

"It is crazy how fast this has come up on me, but it is going to be an amazing experience and I am just excited for it," Haeg said. "I'm excited to see wherever I'll be playing football next year."

After a successful NFL Combine, Pro Day and a number of private workouts, Haeg is projected to be drafted within the top 100 to 150 picks of the draft, and may even be picked before 100 - not bad for a quiet, small-town kid who claims he is not one for the spotlight.

"There have definitely been times where the whole thing seems a little overwhelming, but I have to just sit back and be thankful for everything that is happening to me, and just embrace the whole process," Haeg said. "This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am just trying to experience it as best as I can."

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But Haeg, the son of Richard and Janet Haeg, can think back to memories of growing up in the communities of Lakes Shore and Nisswa and the support he has received from his fellow residents.

"My mom works at the school in Nisswa, so I was always in the area - staying after school and hanging out in town," Haeg said. "The biggest memories I have from growing up are just the friends I have had and the community that Lake Shore and Nisswa is, because it is second to none. Everyone knows everyone, and it was a great place to grow up."

He even credits his home for his success on the gridiron, comparing his football values to that of a well-integrated community.

"I am a very team-oriented person, and I would say the community of that area is something I have been able to take with me throughout my sporting career - being able to embrace the whole team aspect. In football, you need every person on the field to be in sync. That whole community and family feel I have gotten from growing up in the area has just been amazing," Haeg said.

Even within the Bison fan base, however, Haeg does not have to be in the spotlight alone, as his college quarterback, Carson Wentz, is currently projected to be drafted second overall and is regularly featured in major sporting outlets like ESPN. Though Haeg's responsibility for the past few years has been keeping Wentz on his feet, he could not discredit the abilities of the Bison's man under center.

"I would say our whole team feels partially responsible for (Wentz's success)," Haeg said. "He is an amazing player ... but I don't expect a percentage of his signing bonus when he gets drafted or anything like that."

In an ESPN ranking of the top 100 draft prospects, Haeg - ranked 93rd - was described as "an athletic player who will add more strength." Though he will look to improve physically, he sees acclimating himself to the systems of his future team and the league itself as his highest priority.

"The biggest thing is being able to adapt to the system of wherever I go," Haeg said. "Every offensive line coach has a different system. It is pretty similar, but there are these little technique points that certain O-line coaches like to have. The biggest transition will be getting into the speed of the game, which will be a lot faster than college ... There will definitely be an increase in the level of play, so being able to adapt to that and doing exactly what your coach wants you to do (is important)."

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The NFL draft may take Haeg to another part of the country - most recent predictions see him joining the New York Giants early in the fourth round - but he will always have the lakes area with him.

"I am proud to represent this area," Haeg said. "Whenever I am in Fargo or wherever else I might be, I'm always bragging about my hometown. I brag about our summers and how much fun I would have at home. It is a place I am very proud to be a part of, and I am excited to do as much as I can for this town and this area."

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Jan 26, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad offensive tackle Joe Haeg of North Dakota State (59) stretches before the start of Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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