Some may view T.J. Hockenson’s rookie season with the Detroit Lions as a bit of a disappointment. The eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft started the season with a bang, hauling in 131 yards and a score in his NFL debut. However, he had just 236 yards and one score for the rest of the season before a leg injury ended his year after 12 games.
But Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez wants to help. Gonzalez told the Detroit Free Press that he believes he can help turn Hockenson from an already good tight end into a great one.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to him,” Gonzalez said this week at the Super Bowl. “I talked to all these tight ends, young tight ends in the league, so if you do see him, tell him to reach out to me because to me that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones.”
Though he played in a different era, Gonzalez had a remarkably similar start to his NFL career. In fact, just a single yard separates both Gonzalez’s and Hockenson’s rookie seasons.
Gonzalez: 33 catches, 368 yards, 2 TDs
Hockenson: 32 catches, 367 yards, 2 TDs
From there, Gonzalez would have 621 yards in his second season before his true breakout year in season three when he amassed 849 yards and 11 touchdowns on his way to the first of five All-Pro seasons.
Hockenson still has a long way to go before we can start talking about Pro Bowls and All Pros, but Gonzalez believes he has the raw talent.
“He can be an All-Pro, no doubt about it,” he said. “Get him in the right system, he can be an All-Pro.”
The Lions coaching staff was a little more hesitant to crown Hockenson in his first year, but head coach Matt Patricia did like what he saw from Hockenson’s growth throughout the season.
“I think he improved as the spring, training camp and season went on,” Patricia said back in December. “I think he worked really hard at his task and understanding the differences between the college game and the pro game, and some of the different looks that he was going to see.”
But the Year 1 to Year 2 jump is not an easy one, and Hockenson will have the additional hurdle of coming back from an ankle injury serious enough to have him on a scooter a full month after the initial injury. But it sounds like reaching out to Gonzalez would be a good first step. So if you’re reading, T.J., Tony wants to talk.
UPDATE: Hockenson has informally accepted Gonzalez’s invitation via Twitter: