BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots drafted Danish offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon, and the young man has a fascinating journey to the NFL.
A native of Denmark, Froholdt started playing football when he was 12, but didn’t break out until he moved to Ohio his sophomore year of high school. He started as a defensive lineman before shifting to the offensive line before his sophomore at Arkansas, and at 6-foot-5 and 306 pounds, he certainly has the body of an NFL offensive lineman. He’s also pretty versatile, playing both guard positions and a little center for the Razorbacks.
And just to clear it up, his first name is pronounced YELL-duh. If that doesn’t fly off the tongue, he’s OK with being called “Denmark.”
Froholdt never imagined that he would play in the NFL, so he was pretty shocked when he received a phone call from the Patriots on Saturday (you can check it out here, just beware of a stray f-bomb at the end). The kid just loves to play football, and can’t wait to get to work with the Patriots.
Here’s everything Froholdt had to say after being drafted by New England (transcript provided by Patriots):
Q: What was your reaction when you got the call?
HF: It’s extremely unrealistic [to make the NFL]. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, one that really came to reality a couple of years ago when I thought I could do this. But I’m so excited and thankful for this opportunity. It still hasn’t really hit me yet. But I’m really grateful.
Q: You played mostly left guard last year, but have you played other spots on the interior?
HF: You know, my first two years I started at left guard all of the games, and I played at some center and some right guard last year. But I feel pretty comfortable with all of them. It doesn’t really matter – I I’ll play wherever Coach Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] will put me and I’m excited to get to work with him and see where this goes.
Q: Did you have much contact with Dante Scarnecchia before the draft?
HF: Honestly, no. I talked a little bit with one of the Patriot scouts early at the NFLPA Bowl. Other than that, I haven’t really had much contact.
Q: What do you know about Dante Scarnecchia?
HF: A little bit but not quite a lot.
Q: What’s your relationship like with Bret Bielema and have you been in contact with him during the pre-draft process?
HF: Coach B recruited me at Arkansas and I’ll always respect Coach B. The pretty much only contact we’ve been in is when I congratulated him for his new baby. I just missed him when I was broadcasting at the Super Bowl – I was with the Danish media – and I also just missed him at the combine. I just wanted to say hi. Other than that, I haven’t really spoken much with him.
Q: I saw that you were first introduced to football as a sophomore in high school. What drew you to it?
HF: So, actually, I started playing football back in Denmark when I was 12. It started blowing up when I came to the States as an exchange student when I was a sophomore in high school. It was awesome being introduced to the game of football over here, and you guys are pretty good in what you do. It was a tough transition but it ended up going pretty well.
Q: Were you an exchange student with the idea that you would be able to develop better as a football player or did you just come for the academics?
HF: I always had an interest in football but mainly it was because I wanted the American experience. I wanted to get better at football and take it back to Denmark and maybe play a little bit better back in Denmark and learn something. But, of course, there’s always been dreams and we kind of just talked about how it seemed unrealistic about college and the NFL and whatnot. It was never really the intention – I came over wanting to get a supersized meal and drive some big cars, and it turned out as something really different.
Q: Did you run into any of the German media when working for the media at the Super Bowl? Sebastian Vollmer is a guy that spent a lot of time here and was an international acquisition by the Patriots some time ago.
HF: Unfortunately, no. We were up in the booth. I sat next to the Swedish media, but no. Basically, we were down on the field for a little bit doing some broadcasting down there and then went up into the box and broadcast the whole game.
Q: Do you have a relationship with Deatrich Wise, Jr.? During the Super Bowl broadcast, I think you said some nice things about him.
HF: I played with him for a couple of years. He was not one of, but the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever been around. He’s always happy, he’s always excited and he plays with extreme passion and a motor that it really uncanny. I’m really excited to go and join him. It’s going to be awesome to reunite.
Q: What kind of player are you? What kind of player are the Patriots getting?
HF: You’re getting a player that really cares. I love the game of football. I always played it just because I loved it. There was never really claims to come to this point, but I’m excited to be a Patriot and I literally can’t stress enough how excited I am. It’s going to be amazing to be up there and get out to Boston and be a part of that community.
Q: Did you have any nicknames in your locker room just related to you being from Denmark?
HF: Some people thought it was pretty hard to pronounce my name so they just called me “Denmark.” But it’s not too hard. I guess I’ve had a couple that I really don’t quite remember.
Q: I read that you wanted to be an art thief when you were little. Is that still in the cards?
HF: I don’t know why, but me and my childhood friend, Carl, we wanted to be burglars in France, and you know you grow up and figure out that’s kind of frowned upon. Obviously, the dream changed. I think my mom still has the paintings of me [drawing] stick figures stealing diamonds in France.
Q: We talk a lot about how the transition is sometimes difficult for offensive linemen coming from the college game to the pro game because the offenses are so different. What from the Arkansas offense do you think will help you transition a little bit more smoothly?
HF: You know, going from Demark to Ohio in high school was a really, really tough transition. And going from high school to college moving back to O-line was an even tougher transition, so I feel like I’m ready for it. But under Coach B, we played in a more power scheme, 20 to 12 personnel. We were a little more spread this past year, and I’ll I’ve just seen from film the Patriots are really multiple. They do a bunch of things that try to confuse defenses. I’m excited to try to be a part of it. I need to get there to really figure out what’s going on before I can really say anything about how I’ll fit in. But I’m just excited to come in and get to know everybody and try to earn some respect in that organization.
Q: Do you have friends and family back in Denmark who are NFL fans? And how much do your people back home know about the Patriots?
HF: I have a bunch of friends that texted me. My phone’s been blowing up. I haven’t really got back to texting many of them, but the Patriots are an amazing organization. Their track record is amazing. And of course we follow along back in Denmark. They might know more about the Patriots than I do. Everyone’s really excited. I’m sorry, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t really know what to say.