T.J. Hockenson said he grew up idolizing Iowa and its head coach, Kirk Ferentz. He liked how the Hawkeyes played and carried themselves.
Earlier this month, the Chariton (IA) High tight end camped at the Big Ten school. He worked with the coaches and they offered him a scholarship after the event.
Hockenson spent the time since then talking with his family and friends about Iowa, Iowa State and Eastern Michigan. The three schools offered him a full ride.
All of the discussion led him back to the Hawkeyes. His perception of the program turned out to be reality.
Hockenson decided this week that there was no need to wait longer. He called assistant Reese Morgan on Wednesday to tell him he’d like to speak with he and Ferentz Friday before the school’s recruiting tailgate kicked off. He then told them he was coming to Iowa.
"Just in talking with my family and friends and those closest to me, I just knew that Iowa was the right place for me. It’s always been my dream to play under Coach Ferentz and to be with those guys running out in The Swarm. The Iowa tradition was always a big thing for me. I’m just super excited to be a Hawkeye," the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder said.
Hockenson is listed as a two-star and the No. 5 player in Iowa by Rivals. Scout puts him as a three-star and the No. 9 tight end in the Midwest. He’s a three-star and the No. 4 player in the state according to 247.
As a junior, Hockenson caught 73 passes for 1,116 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Iowa Newspaper Association named him to the Class 3A all-state first team.
Hockenson averaged 23.1 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Chariton basketball team this winter in earning second-team all-state honors from the INA. He’s also been a standout in track and field.
Iowa State jumped in with an offer for Hockenson in February. Calling the Cyclones to tell them he was committing to Iowa was not an easy task. He was scheduled to be in Ames on Saturday.
"I called Coach (Brandon) Blaney and I talked to Coach (Paul) Rhoads and I told them that Iowa is the place I needed to be. They understood and they were cool about it. It was hard to make that call. I had built a really good relationship with Coach Blaney and Coach Rhoads. I thanked them for the opportunity and everything they did for me. It was great but Iowa was where I needed to be," he said.
Iowa has enjoyed a lot of success at tight end during the Ferentz Era (and before). Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Myers and C.J. Fiedorowicz were among a group of Hawkeyes to go on to the NFL.
"It’s great to follow in those guys’ footsteps. The tradition is great. They’re one of the top schools in the country for tight ends. That was a big part of the decision for me, too," Hockenson said.
With another year of high school ahead of him, Hockenson understands he has room to grow.
"As of right now, my blocking is still a concern but I’m obviously going to buy into the program and I’m going to work hard and improve that. I’m going to be whatever kind of tight end they want me to be. If that’s split out wide and catching passes, I’ll do that. If I’m staying in and blocking, that’s good too. They know what I need to do to get to the next level. I’m going to listen to them," he said.
Hockenson is one of four in-state prospects pledged to the Hawkeyes in this cycle. He joins Spencer Williams (Cedar Falls), Cole Banwart (Algona) and Austin Schulte (Pella).
"I talked to both Spencer and Cole (at the tailgate)," Hockenson said. "They’re great guys, cool guys. It’s great to bond with these guys and stay in touch with them. That was another big part in my decision."
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