Tough decision awaits for Hawkeye football’s Hockenson

T.J. Hockenson has a big decision to make this offseason – suit up for yet another season for the Hawkeyes, or head to the NFL.

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Tough decision awaits for Hawkeye football’s Hockenson

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson walks back onto the field after an incomplete pass during Iowa's game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 63-0.

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson walks back onto the field after an incomplete pass during Iowa's game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 63-0.

Nick Rohlman

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson walks back onto the field after an incomplete pass during Iowa's game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 63-0.

Nick Rohlman

Nick Rohlman

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson walks back onto the field after an incomplete pass during Iowa's game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 63-0.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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TAMPA, Fla. – Hawkeye tight end T.J. Hockenson has a big decision to make, but it will have to wait until after Iowa’s contest with No. 18 Mississippi State on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl.

He says his biggest focus (at the moment) is the game plan against the Bulldogs, but there’s an NFL Draft dilemma on the horizon.

Fellow tight end Noah Fant announced his decision to forgo his remaining eligibility – including the bowl game – and head for the NFL earlier this season, and Hockenson will have a similar predicament.

“I don’t feel rushed,” Hockenson said. “Like I said, I’ve got this bowl game. It’s one game with these guys. Whether I do stay or whether I go, it’s one more game with this team. That means a lot to me.”

This season, Hockenson has been Iowa’s most consistent tight end. In 12 games, he’s caught 46 passes for 717 yards (both team-high marks) and 6 touchdowns (second on the team).

Also worthy of note is Hockenson’s blocking ability. His skill set in that department resulted in nearly-viral videos of the tight end pushing helpless defenders across the field.

With Fant heading to the NFL (and likely to be drafted in the first two-three rounds in April) and Nick Easley graduating, Hockenson would be Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley’s to-go receiver, hands down, next year – that’s an incentive.

But, it might be hard to watch former-Hawkeye tight end George Kittle tear up the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. Regarded as one of, if not the, best tight ends in the league, Kittle finished the season with 88 receptions for 1,377 yards and 5 touchdowns.

As far as mock NFL drafts go, not much stock can be placed – it’s just speculation. However, for what it’s worth, SB Nation had Hockenson going as the final pick in the first round of the draft, landing a spot with the Packers, who hold the New Orleans Saints’ first round pick this April.

Until then, however, Hockenson is getting feedback from everyone he can. One person he’s gone to is Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.

“I try to be honest with them as much as I can, but I’m not an NFL franchise,” Ferentz said during the team’s availability in Tampa. “… [NFL teams] do all the research they can, and ultimately, beauty is always going to be in the eyes of the beholder. I just try and give guys my opinion on where I see them, where they’re at, what they can improve on, physically how ready they are to do certain things. But ultimately, guys have to do what’s best for them. I respect that.”

Hockenson is a business management major, and he said he’s unsure of how many semesters he has until his degree will be complete, but college will always be there. If he chooses to enter his name into the NFL Draft, Hockenson can always come back to finish his degree, but it’s still one factor in his decision.

According to Hockenson, a variety of factors will come into play on his decision of whether or not to return for another season in the Black and Gold.

“If there was one issue sticking out, I think that would make my decision easy. But there are so many things that go into it,” Hockenson said.

Hockenson said during the team’s practice in Tampa earlier in the week that his decision will “probably be a little later” after the bowl game.

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