ALLEN PARK, Mich. — It wasn’t a subliminal message or a hoped-out, thought-out plan when T.J. Hockenson was packing for Nashville earlier this week to attend the NFL draft. He looked in his pile of socks and the Disney aficionado that he is, made a quick decision.
He didn’t know then how prescient it would end up being. Hockenson wore “The Lion King” socks last night during the first round of the NFL draft. When the No. 8 pick came along, the Detroit Lions were on the clock and selected the tight end, making the wearer of the Lion King socks an actual Detroit Lion.
Not that wearing the socks of his favorite movie was even planned. At an event where suits were custom-tailored and fashion choices were analyzed greatly, Hockenson thought “these socks are pretty sweet” and decided he would wear them.
It was just the latest sign that perhaps Detroit was his destination. The signs went deeper, too. In Little League baseball, he said he played for the Tigers — Old English D on his cap and everything. Playing NHL video games as a kid, he usually used the Red Wings (and with good reason — the Wings were often one of the better teams in the game). Now, if he plays Madden with the Lions, he’ll be able to use himself on yet another Detroit team as a dual-threat tight end the franchise drafted to improve the blocking and receiving at the position while giving Matthew Stafford a strong option.
Matt Patricia said they had his draft card ready to go immediately when Hockenson was still there at No. 8 — a strong signal he was high on their draft board, even with Ed Oliver as another option. Patricia praised Hockenson’s “fit” in the organization and it became “a perfect match.”
And that all turned a somewhat random connection to the city of the Detroit from a kid from Chariton, Iowa, into one that now has a lot more validity, creating a real bond that didn’t exist 24 hours ago. At least recently, though, it started with what he had on his feet.
“The sock choice was completely by coincidence,” Hockenson said. “‘The Lion King’ has been my favorite movie ever since I was little and Disney, so I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s awesome.
“There’s a lot of signs that came to this, with the dropping of the puck and then the socks, and all I have is blue, so I was meant to be here and I’m excited to start.”
On Thursday, though, it started with the socks. He has a bunch of different Disney pairs and he’s a fan of all the movies and cartoons. His dog? Lilo, from “Lilo & Stitch,” of which he also has a pair of socks for the movie. He’s been to Disney “a few times,” and called it “the best place on Earth.” Favorite ride? Space Mountain, calling it “a classic.”
“I know, that’s a commercial,” Hockenson joked. “Put (an) ad next to that.”