Falcons get even tougher with Hageman

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The first feeling you get when talking to Ra'Shede Hageman is that he won't put up with any bull.

The new Falcons defensive lineman has an intimidating demeanor about him, which is a good thing in this case. Remember, the Falcons were criticized for being too soft last season, particularly up front.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Hageman seems like the guy who would be willing to knock your head off on every play. The former University of Minnesota standout had somewhat of a scowl on his face Friday night even after the Falcons made him the 37th overall pick.

Maybe the converted tight end was disappointed about not going in the first round, as projected. Maybe he got irritated sitting in the green room for so long. Or maybe it's just that Hageman is truly a no-nonsense guy -- exactly the kind of player the Falcons need.

"At the end of the day, I'm just glad to get an opportunity to play football," Hageman said via video conference from New York. "I didn't care when and where I was going to get drafted, as long as I'm playing professional football. I felt like that was my main goal. The fact that I have a chance and the Falcons chose me. They obviously have a lot of trust in me and I'm just happy to get that chance to play football."

Anyone familiar with Hageman's background understands why he appreciates the opportunity so much. He was in and out of foster homes as a child while his mother reportedly dealt with alcohol and drug addiction. He and his brother, Xavier, were adopted by Minneapolis attorneys Eric Hageman and Jill Coyle.

He had some off-the-field obstacles to overcome in the past. Now, he has to overcome the knock about his inconsistent play.

"They can say what they want, but I feel like it takes a man to obviously speak about his flaws," Hageman said. "At the end of the day they're not permanent and I have obviously have time to change them, and as soon as I get comfortable, get the proper teaching, I'll be fine."

Hageman will have a strong mentor in Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox, who coached Hageman at the Senior Bowl. Cox also rode Hageman hard throughout the week of the Senior Bowl practices and even went on a profanity-laced tirade to make sure Hageman made it to meetings with NFL teams on time.

"He told me the difference between college and NFL football on the coaching and teaching," Hageman said of Cox. "I definitely learned a lot from Coach Cox because he played at the professional level, and it's easier for me to understand because he played my position, or he played professional football. It was definitely a big step from college teaching to the NFL teachings. It's a lot more serious. It's a lot more important."

The Falcons view Hageman as a defensive end in their 3-4 base with defense that will have a much more multiple look. The more he creates havoc up front, the more important his role will be for the team moving forward.

Pair Hageman with first-round pick Jake Matthews, the offensive tackle from Texas A&M, and the Falcons did a pretty solid job of getting tougher up front already.