During his Tuesday media session, less than a day after being named to a Pro Bowl in just his second professional season, Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson casually slipped in that he had suffered a broken leg last Thanksgiving.
“Obviously, the beginning of last offseason was tough. Breaking my leg and then tearing a few ligaments in my ankle, it was definitely a tough situation,” Hockenson said.
The severity of Hockenson’s 2020 injury hadn’t been revealed publicly to that point. It was obviously a gruesome looking injury that kept him in a scooter for the rest of the season and required offseason surgery, but I’m not sure anyone thought it to be that bad. It caused his offseason to be limited right up until the beginning of this year’s abbreviated training camp.
That makes Hockenson’s sudden rise to top-tier tight end all the more impressive. On top of being the NFC starting tight end for the 2021 Pro Bowl, he’s currently third in the entire league in receiving yards, and tied for sixth in touchdowns.
The Lions tight end is thankful for a team of doctors and trainers that helped him get to the point where he is today.
“Having some great physical therapists that helped me along the way and coming back from that, and then being able to go down and still have an offseason, it truly means a lot to all the people that voted,” Hockenson said.
There was also the challenge of staying mentally prepared while being physically unable to work out during the offseason. Again, Hockenson showed his appreciation for his supportive environment that kept his spirits high and his energy focused.
“There was a lot of guys in the locker room that really laid it out there—‘As long as you work hard and as long as you do what you’re trainers tell you and what everyone is telling you, then you’ll be able to come back,’” Hockenson said. “That really meant a lot. A lot of guys had my back throughout the offseason, texting me, just trying to make sure that things were going well, everything was going well.”
And while Hockenson is understandably a bit disappointed that this year he won’t be able to spend a weekend with some of the best players in the NFL due to COVID restrictions making this year’s Pro Bowl an entirely-virtual event, he’s still appreciate of the honor.
“It’s still such a huge honor and something that you take pride in,” Hockenson said. “Obviously, that’s a disappointing part of it, but I think we’re still going to try and have something to make the most out of it.”