Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson on NFL decision: 'I stopped thinking about it'

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — T.J. Hockenson has a notebook full of wisdom that he’s going to put aside for two weeks.

Iowa’s star tight end will peruse it again after the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl, then make the biggest decision of his young life: Return for his junior season with the Hawkeyes or enter the NFL draft.

“I’m going to weigh and research and make sure I’m 100 percent sure on what decision I’m going to make,” Hockenson told reporters Monday. “I think writing something down is very helpful, because then you don’t forget it and you have it to look back on.”

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) looks on during a NCAA football practice on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, at the Hansen Football Performance Center in Iowa City.

Hockenson said he’s spoken to dozens of people seeking advice. But he’s done talking for now. His focus is on preparing for Iowa’s matchup against Mississippi State in Tampa, Florida. He is leaning one way, but is not 100 percent sure yet. He’ll make an announcement after the Outback Bowl. He has until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.

“That was probably a few days ago where I stopped thinking about it. Now I’m into this phase. I’m trying to hone in on this next game,” Hockenson said.

“I don’t feel rushed, not right now. I’ve got this bowl game … and whether I stay or whether I go, it’s one more game with this team, it’s one more game with these guys, and that means a lot to me.”

Hockenson earned the Mackey Award given to the best tight end in college football after leading the Hawkeyes with 46 catches for 717 yards this season. That meant traveling to a gala celebration in Atlanta, getting the red-carpet treatment and being interviewed for a nationally televised awards show.

This is not the Chariton native’s preferred milieu.

“I was about ready to come back after the first day or so,” Hockenson said. “Just come back and go to work. There’s a lot of guys down there that like it. It was good. It was a lot of fun.

“But I’m not one of those guys.”

One version of the Mackey will permanently reside at the Hawkeye football complex. The other goes to Hockenson. Or, more precisely, his parents, Teri and Tod.

“Maybe when I get a house and am retired, I’ll put it somewhere nice,” Hockenson said.

Hockenson became the second Hawkeye to win the Mackey, joining Dallas Clark, who got his in 2002. Clark was one of Hockenson’s heroes growing up. He’s now a mentor.

Hockenson sent Clark a picture of him holding the trophy, with the question: “Does this look familiar?”

They got a laugh out of that.

Clark, who went on to star for the Indianapolis Colts before moving back to Livermore, has offered plenty of advice about the NFL. Hockenson also routinely speaks to former Hawkeye and current San Francisco 49er George Kittle. Teammate Noah Fant, another standout tight end, has already declared for the draft and is considered a potential first-round pick.

Hockenson is waiting to hear from the NFL’s draft advisory board, which will give him honest feedback about what round he would most likely be selected in. He is ready to be “nitpicked,” he said. He does it to himself all the time.

“My goals were never to get all these awards or have the decision about the NFL at the end of the season. My goals were to come to practice every day, make sure I was a three-down tight end and do everything I could to make sure I’m on the field every play,” said Hockenson, a business management major.

Hockenson is bouncing all of the information he’s receiving off of his parents. He said they are completely neutral and would never try to steer him in a direction.

But Teri and Tod Hockenson are getting caught up in all the NFL talk anyway. They’re even getting cold-called by random nosy people.

“They’ve gotten reached out by different people, people they don’t know. They’re like, ‘Why are they calling me?’ I’m like, Mom, I don’t know. Change your number,’” Hockenson said.

Now, the question is: Will Hockenson be changing his, or will he be wearing the familiar black-and-gold “38” next fall?