Diamond in the Rough: Maurice Hagens, FB, Miami
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Every year in the NFL Draft, there are talented players that slip through the cracks. Players go undrafted for a variety of reasons like being too undersized, a lack of speed, injuries, a lack of production in college or playing at lower level of competition. Some players end up not getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and end up falling to the late rounds or going undrafted all together.
The history of the NFL features some great players who went undrafted, including Hall of Famers like quarterback Warren Moon. In recent years, there have been other superstars who were undrafted free agents, including Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, London Fletcher, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Brian Waters and Priest Holmes. Going undrafted didn’t stop Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith from becoming a Super Bowl MVP.
With so much talent falling through the cracks, WalterFootball.com decided to start a new series to showcase some of the under-the-radar talents in the 2014 draft class. These players could be late-round picks or undrafted free agents who end up becoming steals for their NFL teams.
This edition features Miami fullback Maurice Hagens. Sources with NFL teams tell WalterFootball.com that Hagens could be worthy of a pick late on the third day, but may slip through the draft because of the downgrading of the fullback position. As a senior, Hagens had 22 yards on five carries with seven receptions for 83 yards. The past two seasons he did a great job as a lead blocker for Duke Johnson. WalterFootball.com spoke with Hagens, who believes he can compete well at the next level.
How is preparation for your pro day going, and do you have any goals in mind for your workout?
“Workouts are going great, as expected. They’re going as they’re supposed to go. I came in heavy at 260 on the first day. I knew then that was a problem if I wanted to run a great 40 time, so I had to trim down 15 pounds, which I’m getting to. I’m at 250 right now, so workouts are going great. I still have almost two months because our pro day is April 3rd. “The bench press I want to do 25 or above. In the 40, I want to get a low 4.9. That would be very helpful for me.”
At Miami, you paved the way for a lot of great backs like Duke Johnson. Do you consider your lead blocking to be your best asset for the NFL?
“Of course. I feel like I do a great job of that. I don’t shy away from catching or running with the ball because I feel like I do that well. You can see it in some games where I caught the ball and ran the ball well. At fullback, I feel like I can do everything well.”
Your receiving ability didn’t get utilized much at Miami but you flashed it when given the opportunity. The Duke game for example (3-42). That was something you could have done more of in college.
“I didn’t complain about not getting the ball because I knew what my role was. I knew my first responsibility was to block and the catches would come after. That’s just something that came from the coaches. I’m not going to be selfish player and be in their ear saying I need to get this or that. I’m just going to do what the coaches tell me to do. They put me in the best position to help the team win.”
In the passing-driven NFL, pass blocking is critical for any fullback. How do you feel you’ve been prepared for that role?
“That comes natural. When I first got there, I knew that in order to be a great running back you have to pass protect first. You never know what can happen and who would come on a blitz, so my first day there I wanted to learn the blitzes, the protections, what type of [defensive] ends are we going against, do I have to chip when I get out on my route. I felt like my pass protection was very good this year.”
In the NFL, you also will be asked to contribute to special teams. How has Miami prepared you for that?
“Miami prepared me very well on special teams because under coach Shannon or coach Golden in order to get on the field you have to play special teams. … My first playing time was playing kickoff return. I played punt. With coach Shannon especially, special teams is what you had to do first in order to get your playing time on offense or defense. Special teams was a good experience for me in college.”
As you’ve seen on shows like Hard Knocks, a lot of teams only keep one fullback and it is hard to make a roster as a fullback. What are your expectations as far as making a roster or practice squad?
“I’m trying to start. When I get my opportunity I want to be on at least three special teams units, and I know if I can execute those three I’ll get my chance at the fullback position.”
Growing up in Tampa, Florida, was Mike Alstott a guy you watched a lot on your way up?
“Not really, because I wasn’t a fullback growing up. I played running back at first. Then when I got to Miami, I played fullback and I watched No. 30 Pat Hill. Then I started watching Vonta Leach to go that route.”
Vonta Leach is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL. Is he who you tried to pattern your game after?
“Yeah, because he is a very smart player. In order to be like him, you have to know the different angles, what type of defense your going against. I figured that if he’s been this successful and played so long in the league, he’s doing something right, so I just watched him to see how he did things.”
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