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SENIOR BOWL NOTEBOOK: Haeg Entering Draft With Championship Pedigree; Other Notes

Posted Jan 29, 2016

Offensive tackle spent five seasons at NDSU, including a redshirt year, and all of them ended with a national title.

MOBILE, Ala. — Before he was sidelined by a shoulder injury, North Dakota State offensive tackle Joe Haeg came to the Senior Bowl looking to show he could compete with players from the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Haeg joked that if he failed to do that, he could always convince an NFL team to draft him based on the success of his team in college. Haeg spent five seasons at NDSU, including a redshirt year, and all of them ended with a national title.

“I have five rings, which is nuts,” said Haeg, who remained hopeful of being able to play in the game Saturday. “Maybe that’s part of my advertisement for getting drafted.”

Haeg, incidentally, moved from right to left tackle in 2014 to replace starter Billy Turner after he was drafted by the Dolphins. He then was responsible for protecting the blind side for quarterback Carson Wentz, who also earned five championship rings at NDSU.

“He was a great mentor,” Haeg said of Turner. “If I can get anywhere close to him, man, I’d be so happy. I just want to get on a team. I just want to finally go somewhere and continue to play football.”

AWARD WINNERS

Along with Ohio Sate wide receiver Braxton Miller being selected as the top performer during the week of practice, one player was honored at each position.

The offensive winners were North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz as the top quarterback; Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon as the top running back; Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard as the top wide receiver and Indiana’s Jason Spriggs as the top offensive lineman.

On defense, the winners were Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence as the top defensive lineman; Alabama’s Reggie Ragland as the top linebacker; and Southeastern Louisiana’s Harlan Miller as the top defensive back.

Selected as the top specialist was San Diego State long-snapper Jeff Overbaugh.

LOOKING TO SERVE

Long-snapper Joe Cardona became last spring the first Navy player selected in the draft in 20 years, and now running back Chris Swain is hoping his invitation to the Senior Bowl will help him make it two years in a row.

Swain took part in practice all week but isn’t expected to play in the Senior Bowl on Saturday because of a minor shoulder injury.

Like Cardona last year, Swain will need permission from the Navy to be able to play in the NFL next season.

Swain is scheduled to become a surface warfare officer for the Navy, the same job Cardona is now handling after resuming his military work following his rookie season with the New England Patriots.

“I always want to play in the NFL, but I also know my commitments when I signed to go to the school and I decided to stay there,” Swain said. “It’s up to them and it’s in God’s hands ultimately.”

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

One could forgive Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for getting mixed up when trying to coach Notre Dame center Nick Martin for the North team.

After all, Garrett has been coaching Nick’s older brother Zack for the past two years in the NFL.

“I have called him Zack,” Garrett admitted. “‘Set the huddle, Zack.’ I caught myself, so I’m calling him ‘Notre Dame’ now.”

BACK IN ACTION

Every player at the Senior Bowl is grateful for the opportunity, but there’s something else for Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams.

This week marked his return to practice for the second-team preseason All-SEC selection after he missed the entire 2015 with a foot injury. Williams was injured in a scrimmage and underwent surgery Aug. 17.

“I was able to do all the individual drills, the cutting and catching passes, taking handoffs from the quarterback,” Williams said. “It felt good to be back out here playing football.

“It’s the most I’ve done. I had to be patient just because it’s an injury that I don’t want to reoccur, but I feel pretty good coming out here and running around.”

Williams, who had 12 rushing touchdowns in 2014, said he tried to stay involved throughout the season.

He wasn’t expected to play in the Senior Bowl game, but still felt it was important to get back on the field.

“I didn’t do everything here,” Williams said, “but I did the individual drills and I was able to cut off of it and show a burst, so I think it helped me out.”

THE NAME GAME

UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was born in Kailua, Hawaii, and his full name is John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn. That’s 30 letters and three apostrophes in his middle name, for those keeping track.
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