Allen Park —T.J. Hockenson isn’t about to rest on his laurels. The Detroit Lions tight end, fresh off a Pro Bowl selection in his second season, is spending his offseason looking for opportunities to get better.
Some of that is coming from film study, both of his own performance, as well as trying to learn some new tricks from some of the best players at his position. And continuing with that line of thinking, Hockenson will be participating in the inaugural Tight End University, a summit being put together by close friend and former college teammate George Kittle next month.
“We’re just trying to get everybody together, learn from each other,” Hockenson said. “It’s going to be down in Nashville. …The defensive line has a defensive line camp, the DBs have a DB camp, linebackers have a linebacker camp, so it’s like why not get the tight ends together and learn from each other, hang out with each other, get close. It’s a very unique position. It’s a close-knit position that we want to be. I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun when we get a lot of personalities in the tight end rooms throughout the league. I think we’re all going to be able to vibe together and hang out.”
Kittle has been an instrumental figure in Hockenson’s football career, dating to their time together at Iowa. And while Hockenson earned the Pro Bowl nod last season, reaching Kittle’s level of production is the logical next step for Detroit’s tight end.
Hockenson finished 2020 with 67 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns. That’s solid, but Kittle, who was limited to eight games by injuries, finished with 48 catches for 634 yards after topping 80 grabs and 1,000 yards each of the previous two seasons.
This offseason, Hockenson’s position coach, Ben Johnson, put together cut-ups together of several top tight ends, including Kittle, Travis Kelce and Darren Waller for Hockenson to study.
“I’m watching them, I’m taking notes, I’m trying to be able to implement things in my game,” Hockenson said. “And he just shows me little tidbits, like, ‘Hey, this release point looks good.’ Or, ‘This route looks good and you can do this.’ Different things he thinks I can implement in my game that will help me for years to come, and I can’t thank him enough.”
Johnson also has Hockenson watching one other player — Lions Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson.
“I mean, that dude had one of the best catch points you’ll ever see,” Hockenson said. “Just going up for a ball and coming down with it, and just seeing how he uses his body, how he used it against defenders, just how he uses his hands. That dude was one of a kind, and I’m obviously trying to be that, but, you know, Calvin Johnson is at a higher level, you know? For sure. And that’s a guy that you take things from. That dude’s a one-of-one, for sure.”