NFL: Who cares about a TD pass, Joe Haeg is Super Bowl champ
Brainerd High School and North Dakota State University graduate Joe Haeg said he's not too mad about dropping a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.
Joe Haeg went from a college football walk-on to a Super Bowl champion.
The former Brainerd High School graduate took time away from celebrating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, in the NFL Championship game to talk about the game, the preparation and the season as a whole. And yes, he also talked about the dropped pass.
Q: It’s almost been a week. Has it sunk in that you are a Super Bowl champion?
JH: Kind of. The parade, you kind of felt like we actually did something. I think it will take a while to fully grasp the whole magnitude of it. It’s been crazy. It’s been a blast. It’s been an unreal experience.
Q: What were the two weeks leading up to the game like? In past years, there’s so many media obligations and other distractions. There wasn’t as much of that this year, though.
JH: Honestly, it was almost a blessing. Yeah, you don’t get the full experience with the big media day and stuff, but we were just at home. We were practicing like normal and it was kind of a nice feeling. I think a lot of teams can let the moment get too big for them. For us we were able to practice the same way we had been practicing all year and kind of just treat it like a normal game week.
That's what you want to do. You want to continue to do the stuff that got you there. I think around Friday (Feb. 5) people started to get ramped up and you could tell things were a little different when we started to get toward the end. It was very exciting.
Q: Tampa Bay was the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium. Was it a home-field advantage?
JH: Our fans were definitely louder, but the Chiefs had a good showing. Lots of times with Super Bowls in general it ends up being neutral fans who just want to watch the Super Bowl in general. But there was a slight advantage. I don’t know how much the noise affected the Chiefs as much as us, but it was just cool.
We had the same locker room that we always have. I think it was a cool experience to be part of the first team to play in their home stadium for the Super Bowl.
Q: Your game plan seemed to work to perfection. Were there any adjustments during the game or did you not need to because it seemed like whatever you had planned the Chiefs didn’t have an answer for it?
JH: A lot of times when you go into halftime you just look at what run plays are working, what protections are working well. Thankfully, we had a lot of run plays that were hitting pretty good so we still had a lot of good options that in the first half they didn’t show that they could stop it. We kept going with a lot of that stuff and I think it was a great game plan.
It was slightly different than what we had done a lot. Normally we do a lot more pocket passes and a little more spread, but the run game was hitting well and the play-action was hitting well. We all knew it going into that second half that we were going to put our money on that stuff and it worked out well for us.
Q: Because the Super Bowl halftime show is longer than usual, I’ve heard players will oftentimes take showers and redress for the second half like it’s the start of a new game. What was the halftime break like for you?
JH: We actually, in one of our practices, I think it was the Wednesday or Thursday before, we took a 30-minute break in the middle of our practice, which is something you just don’t do. They had us go inside of the indoor facility. We all sat in chairs and then just figured out what our bodies would need after that break. So five minutes before that 30-minute practice break was over we went out and kind of stretched just to get a feel for how your body would react and get an idea of what things you would have to do to get back into that game mode.
Even after a normal halftime break, you can tell you’re a little stiffer and you have to stretch things out. It was definitely noticeably longer, but I don’t think it was too big of an issue for us. We had a good idea of what to expect.
Q: When you signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason was this even on your radar? You guys didn’t have OTAs. You didn’t have a training camp and it seemed like it took this team a while to all get on the same page, but once you did you guys were really good. Did you have a sense this might happen?
JH: Yes. There were a lot of new faces that came, including myself. I think early in the season we were definitely having some growing pains and trying to figure out what would work. In one game we would be focusing on something like passing the ball 50 times a game. Sometimes that would work. Sometimes it didn’t. Then we finally figured out where our strengths were.
We had two main running backs as well as a third in LeShon McCoy, who could hop it whenever so we had to figure out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses were. We started building our offense around that. I think we had an 8- or 9-game win streak to end the season if you include the playoffs. It was exciting those last two months when you could feel the momentum growing and really finding our identity as a team.
When I signed down here, it was a couple of days after Tom (Brady) did. Anytime you have that and all the talent that was already around here like on our defense I think everyone going into training camp thought we would have a really good shot at it.
NFL: Haeg signs with Tampa Bay
Q: How different of a player is Tom Brady?
JH: I think what you get from Tom is, yes he’s an amazing quarterback from a physical standpoint. He’s super accurate and he can make all the throws. But the big thing not a lot of people see is the amount of time he spends on game planning and just his knowledge of the game. Lots of times he knows what is about to happen defensively before each play.
It’s fun to play with guys like that because they fully understand their offense. They fully understand what we’re doing and they just instill that confidence in all the guys. I think that’s huge and a huge part of any Super Bowl team or any team that’s pushing for the Super Bowl. You just need to have that guy who is in that powerful position to be able to handle it and live up to the moment. No one has done it as much as he has so we had confidence, especially once we got into the playoffs. It was a blast to play with him.
Q: I’ll ask you this now so no one has to when you come back home. Did you catch a touchdown in college? And what happened on your almost touchdown catch in the Super Bowl?
JH: I caught a pass my junior year in the national championship game I think. In college, you can’t report as eligible so it was technically a backward pass from Carson (Wentz). But that play we actually stole it from from the Titans, who ran it a year before against the Chiefs. It was the same exact play pretty much and of course when they ran it the guy was 5 yards in the endzone wide open with no one near him.
It was a different look than what we were expecting. I tried to make the most of it and find some space to get open. The previous time when the Titans ran it, the linebacker just ran straight for the football because we were faking a run to the right. This time he ended up playing coverage and he got back to me in time. I think I caught it initially and then he just knocked it out of my hands. That’s the way it is. I’m not too mad. I probably would have been pretty upset if we would have lost by a touchdown or something like that, but thankfully we handled them pretty well. It’s still a cool experience. I’m not down in the dirt about it. It’s just fun to live for those moments and it will be a great memory honestly.
Coach Stolski didn’t throw much in his offense, let alone to lineman!
Coach Stolski didn’t throw much in his offense, let alone to lineman!— Rick Grammond (@rgrammond) February 8, 2021
Q: How many times did you guys practice that play?
JH: We actually had two plays in. This one was a newer one that we only put in the week of the game. There was a play that we had in that was called four plays before we ran the other one. We got down to the 6 and it was more of like a 5- to 10-yard play, but we ran out of clock and ended up calling a timeout and we switched it up. That one we had in a couple of weeks before as well and it’s been in the game plan a couple of times, but we were waiting for the right situation for it.
Q: You win the Super Bowl. Nick Anderson is pitching in the World Series. Josh Archibald won a Stanley Cup. It just seems like Brainerd has been title town a little bit here. Have you talked to those guys about their experiences and what’s it like to represent Brainerd the way you have?
Nisswa Elementary celebrates Joe Haeg Week
JH: I got a message from Josh after the game. Nick, I don’t think I’ve ever really talked to him before, but I’ve heard good things. It’s crazy that we’ve had this many people because all these guys are talking about their first guy from high school to win a championship and all this stuff. I was thinking about my high school and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, Josh won. Oh, yeah. There’s Nick.’ It’s crazy that we've had all these guys who have been able to go out and have success. It’s unbelievable and it’s cool.
I’m just so happy for the high school and the town. It’s something that I get excited about. I remember going insane when Josh won the Stanley Cup. I think it’s just a cool thing for our town and everyone around to cheer for me. Unfortunately, Minnesota hasn’t had as much success in the old championship department for a while, but it’s cool for everyone to be able to get behind something.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.