Roommates

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This is NFL Rookie Diaries, a series where NFL rookies take you inside their new lives as NFL players. From adjusting to playing the game at its highest level, to learning the locker room culture, to adjusting to life off the field, these rookies tell it like it is. Welcome to the NFL.

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People were yelling things at us like, “Bosworth!” and “Hey cowboy!” We were at a PGA Tour event in Phoenix and there were thousands of people there, and Brock was walking around in cowboy boots, Wranglers and sunglasses with his blonde mullet hanging out. I had only known him for about a week, and this was my first indication that maybe Brock and I were just a little bit different.

We signed with the same agency before the draft. I didn’t know who he was and he didn’t know who I was. We just showed up in Phoenix in February because that’s where we were both going to train for pro days and the NFL combine, and our agency told me, “OK, you’re going to be rooming with Brock Hekking. He’s known as The Mullet Man.”

Great, I thought. The Mullet Man …

People always say that when you move away or go someplace unfamiliar, you should take something to remind you of home, like a photo, or a gift your parents gave you.

When I got drafted by the Chargers in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, I took a bunch of stuff with me to San Diego. I didn’t want to just pack one suitcase and grab a flight across the country. I packed up the 2005 Ford Escape I drove all through college — the one with over 100,000 Nebraska and North Dakota miles on it — and drove through the mountains and down to Southern California to start my new life as a pro football player.

Sep 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) is defended by Detroit Lions tackle Cornelius Lucas (77) during the game at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Most people, when they grow up and get a “real job,” they want to be on their own, buy a house, start a family and all that. But with the transition to the NFL and the move from North Dakota to San Diego, I had enough changes going on in my life, and the thought of living by myself and coming home every day after practice to an empty house and having no one to talk to just seemed boring to me.

That’s where Brock comes in.

It started back in Phoenix when I was first introduced to The Mullet Man. We were sharing an apartment while we were preparing for the draft, and we got pretty close in a short amount of time, even though we couldn’t be more different.

If the boots-Wranglers-sunglasses-mullet combo didn’t give it away already, I’ll tell you, Brock is pretty out there. He embraces the spotlight more than I do. Me? I’m a little more laid back. It’s just kind of how I am. If you were anything like me — a kid from a small town in Nebraska — and you saw a guy like Brock walking down the street, the last thing you’d think is, Now there’s a guy I’d like to share a small apartment with.

Oct 4, 2014; Reno, NV, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack defensive end Brock Hekking (53) warms up prior to their NCAA football game with the Boise State Broncos at MacKay Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Definitely not. Different worlds.

But things aren’t always what they seem. We also have a lot in common. We both play linebacker. We both wore No. 53 in college. And when it comes down to it, as NFL prospects, we were going through all the same changes in our lives and trying to get NFL teams to notice us, so we actually kind of hit it off.

After the combine, Brock and I went our separate ways to await draft day. When it finally came, I got drafted by the Chargers, but Brock went undrafted. He had a lot of teams interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent, but the Chargers were the only team that had him in for a pre-draft visit, and he really liked it there.

So after the draft, I was pretty excited when Brock texted me and told me he was coming to San Diego.

When OTAs came around, the whole team stayed in the same hotel, and Brock and I went back to sharing a room. Through OTAs and training camp combined, we spent a total of about two-and-a-half months together in pretty close quarters, but we were cool with it. I guess it doesn’t take much to please kids that were in college in a dumpy apartment not too long ago.

It’s a part of my life that I didn’t have to turn upside down to make my NFL dream come true. At least not yet.

But just like back in Phoenix, during camp, we were just a couple of NFL rookies trying to prove we belonged and earn roster spots. It was a crazy time going through conditioning, practices, meetings and learning the defensive schemes. It’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure. You know, This is your shot, don’t blow it. So it definitely helped having Brock there — someone I was familiar with and who was going through the same things as me — to ease the transition. We could push each other and study the playbook together. It was actually a pretty nice setup.

In fact, it was working out so well that we figured, why break it up when camp ended?

So when the team broke camp, we got an apartment together. Just like a couple of college kids.

It’s definitely not how I imagined how I’d live as a rookie in the NFL. When you make it to the NFL — or any professional, post-college job — you think about being an adult and being on your own, which means getting your own place. But when you’re trying to adjust to the NFL — which is a huge adjustment — it helps when you can go home after practice and talk to your roommate about everything and kick back and watch Netflix together, just like you did in college. Instead of a photo, it’s my something that reminds me of what it was like back at North Dakota State. It’s familiar, and it’s a part of my life that I didn’t have to turn upside down to make my NFL dream come true. At least not yet.

Aug 29, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) celebrates with defensive back Jahleel Addae (37) and inside linebacker Donald Butler (56) after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (not pictured) at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little different now since Brock suffered a lisfranc injury in the preseason and he’s basically done for the year, so we’re kind of on different schedules and we don’t see each other as much. Plus, we’re into the season now, so we don’t have any time to do anything outside of football anyway. But at the end of the day, we’re both a couple of young, unmarried guys living in Southern California. Basically, we’re still like a couple of college roommates. As long as we take our jobs seriously and put everything we have into being the best football players possible — me on the field and Brock in his rehab — we don’t have to completely grow up yet, do we?

Maybe when I get home, I’ll ask The Mullet Man what he thinks.

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