Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson joined the “Bussin with the Boys” podcast recently, and showed off a little personality we’ve yet to really see from the 2019 first-round pick. The podcast, hosted by Titans linebacker Will Compton and (for this episode) 49ers tight end George Kittle, dove into Hockenson’s thoughts on several topics, ranging from playing for Matthew Stafford to his discomfort in promoting himself on social media.
One of his most entertaining stories was about how he had to hide his personality throughout the draft process to keep up the squeak-clean image of the University of Iowa and their culture.
“The Draft is an interview, and you have to do everything right. That was the worst thing,” Hockenson said. “You know how I was. I was a clean class, Iowa guy. Never did anything wrong. Never put myself out there. Clean shaven.”
The plan worked. Hockenson was drafted eighth overall by the Lions. However, Bob Quinn, the Lions general manager at the time, quickly found out that wasn’t the real T.J. Hockenson.
“Bob Quinn literally about six months after he drafted me, he’s like, ‘You’re not the same guy I drafted.’ He’s like, ‘You like to have way too much fun,’” Hockenson said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Well, you’re not wrong. I like to laugh, I like to have fun. That’s my thing.”
On the highs and lows of his rookie season: “After the first game, I was like, ‘God dang, this is easy. This is easy. The NFL is stupid easy. What are we doing?’ And then I had 7 yards. Nothing. And then I broke my ankle, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to get out of here.’”
On playing in Detroit: “I like Detroit. I do like the city of Detroit. The people, the fans there are awesome. They’re die-hards. They’ve got to be. Especially the last few years, you’ve got to be a diehard to be a Lions fan. My last two years were obviously tough, just not winning or doing anything like that.”
On playing with Matthew Stafford: “He is probably the best dude, the best player I’ve ever been around. Period. The dude did some crazy stuff in practice. My rookie year, my first year I was on the outside and I ran an in-route 2 yards inside the end zone and Marvin Jones is over here. He’s looking at Marvin Jones the entire time and I come around—and I’m a rookie, right, so I’ve never seen this—he no-look passes me, and I double caught it. I got my feet down and everything, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’
I looked at him and I’m like, ‘Did you just no-look me?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I saw it caught you off guard.’”
On Stafford during a game: “He would break the huddle and start changing stuff. He would talk to me on the line—and there were a couple I missed. I did apologize to him. There was one, I can’t remember who we were playing. I had a basic route. I ran the basic, and he told me to do a corner. I caught the basic, he threw it to me, and he came to me and was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Did you hear me say a corner?’ I was like, ‘Oh, no. I was still open, right?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’”
On Stafford’s toughness: “Nothing could go wrong where it’s like, okay he’s out. You always looked over your shoulder like, oh he’s coming back. If he did get checked out by trainers, he would tell them to leave.
“He’s one of those guys, for all of us, he’s like, ‘Y’all do all of this during the week. Y’all do everything I ask of you, and I’m going to go out there and do everything that I can for you guys.’
“Everybody on our team respected that guy. Everybody loved him, and he will forever put a stamp on my career and in the city of Detroit. He’s, like I said, the best I ever played with.”
On his reaction to the trade: “I texted him. I’m like, ‘Dang dude. I love you. I know you’re going to go win somewhere. I know you are.’ That’s just the type of dude he is. There’s not a guy in our locker room that’s not rooting for that guy to get a ring. All of us loved him.”
On Jared Goff: “I’m super excited. Honestly, I’ve talked to Jared a couple of times, and (Goff and Stafford) have the same demeanor. Just cool guys. Will give you pieces of advice, but will never yell at you unless you do something really wrong. Jared, I’m super excited to play with him.”
On Dan Campbell: “We sat down and we talked. Honestly, after talking to him and having that conversation, I’m super stoked about this year. That guy is super down to Earth, loves the game, wants to win. He played in Detroit, so he just loves being there. He’s super fired up about getting this thing goin’.”