Football: Austin’s Hagan learns from a former Minnesota Viking

Published 8:23 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

When it comes to football, Austin junior Sam Hagan is aways ready to give it his best effort, and he’s not afraid to ask for a little advice. So when he saw former Minnesota Viking running back Darrin Nelson at a youth football camp in Austin last year, Hagan couldn’t help himself.

Knowing they both played running back, Hagan sought some pointers from Nelson and before he knew it, the two were e-mailing back and forth and Nelson was helping Hagan become a better football player.

Hagan said Nelson gives him advice on building speed, learning to be an effective receiver and how to build quickness.

Austin junior Sam Hagan works with former Vikings Darrin Nelson at a recent youth football camp in Austin. Hagan has received mentorship from Nelson over the past year. Photo Provided

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“I think he saw something with me with his size and height because he was kind of a shorter running back and I’m a shorter running back. We kind of relate there,” Hagan said. “It’s been really cool. Darin’s helped me a lot with football and with everything. I’d just like to thank him and tell the other teams [we play] to watch out.”

Although he’s small in stature like Nelson, Hagan doesn’t see that as a weakness. He likes to think of the advantages it gives him.

“You have to work on a lot of strength and speed, but I see it as a bit of an advantage with our offensive line,” Hagan said. “They’re bigger guys and I can pretty much hide behind them and the defense can’t see me. Being shorter to the ground allows me to make quicker cuts as well.”

Nelson had quite the football career in college and in the pros. He played four years at for Stanford University, where he amassed 4,033 rushing yards and 11 TDs and 2,368 receiving yards and 16 TDs in his career with the Cardinal. 

Nelson played 11 seasons in the NFL with 10 of those seasons being with the Vikings. He finished with 4,442 career rushing yards and 18 TDs and 2,559 receiving yards and 5 TDs. Hagan’s dad Dennis has been surprised by how much attention Nelson has given to his son over the last year.

“I can’t believe the interest he took in Sam. He’s in contact with him and I think it’s just amazing,” Dennis said. “He just e-mailed Sam today to see how he’s been doing and what his plans are for the offseason.”

Hagan said that football is his No. 1 passion in life, but he also showed a lot of dedication in Boy Scouts as he received the highest honor in earning his Eagle Scout Badge. Hagan said the work ethic he learned in scouts has carried over to the gridiron.

Sam Hagan met former Viking football player Darrin Nelson at a camp in Austin a year ago. Since then, Nelson has provided Hagan with mentorship. Photo Provided

“You’ve got to work really, really hard on that [badge] and that obviously transfers over to my work ethic for football,” Hagan said. 

Hagan is looking to build up his strength so he can muster the power to run through arm tackles next fall. He’s also always working on his speed and he plans on running with the Packer track and field team this spring.

The Packers are coming off a 5-5 overall season where all of their losses came to ranked teams and two of those losses came to eventual state champ Owatonna. Owatonna’s 64-41 win over the Packers on Oct. 28 was their closes score of their entire state tournament run. 

“This year meant a lot to us. We worked really hard to for that and we continue to work really hard for it,” Hagan said. “Almost all of us were in the weight room every single day leading up to the season and we were working our tails off. We’re still progressing, but I think next year we’ll do a lot better. [Watching Owatonna win it] lights a fire.”

Hagan said his ultimate goal is to play football at the college level and he’s going to continue to rely on Nelson for mentorship as he continues to do what it takes to improve over the next year.

Austin’s Sam Hagan works with former Viking Darrin Nelson at a recent football camp in Austin. Nelson has served as a mentor for Hagan over the past year. Photo Provided