Hale Hentges had a solid chance to remain on the Vikings’ roster in 2021 as their No. 3 tight end but instead chose to leave football behind.
On Tuesday, the Vikings placed Hentges, 24, on the reserve/retired list after just two NFL seasons. In an interview with the Pioneer Press on Thursday, Hentges said his decision to retire is “final” and he is doing so for family reasons and to start a career in business. He will begin a sales position April 12 with Zebra Technologies in Austin, Texas, after serving an externship with the company from mid-February to mid-March.
“My wife and I were very lucky to find out that we are expecting a son in July, so that was a very big factor for me, stopping to kind of get a little more stability in my life and to be there for my son,” said Hentges, who married the former Shannon Mikesky in January 2019. “Also, I’m really just excited to enter the business world. Zebra’s a great company.”
Hentges was undrafted in 2019 out of Alabama, where he was a teammate of tight end Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota’s second-round draft pick in 2019. As a rookie with Washington, he started four of the 11 games he played, catching eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Hentges was waived last October and joined Indianapolis’ practice squad. After starter Kyle Rudolph suffered a season-ending foot injury, the Vikings signed Hentges in December, with four games left. He played in just one game, getting seven snaps on special teams in the season finale at Detroit.
When Rudolph was released March 2, Minnesota’s top two tight ends became Smith and Tyler Conklin. The only others on the roster then were Hentges and Brandon Dillon, who spent most of the past two years on the practice squad.
“(Hentges) was in good position to be a big contributor this season with the Vikings and have a lot more years left to play, but he made a decision that was best for him and his family,” said Irv Smith Sr., a former NFL tight end and Smith Jr.’s father.
Hentges and his agent, Derek Simpson, got the ball rolling in January on his decision to retire. Hentges exchanged emails with Vikings executive Rob Brzezinski and began the process of filing retirement papers. He talked to offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak and tight ends coach Brian Pariani, and said they were a bit surprised.
“A lot of people have been surprised at this decision,” said Hentges, who was under contract in 2021 for a nonguaranteed $850,000. “But there’s so much more to life than football, and I think a lot of people, especially at my age, kind of have a hard time seeing that.
“I love that people are chasing their (NFL) dream, and I encourage them to go after everything that they want in this life. … But for me and my wife, our goal looked a little bit different, and that’s something that’s raising a family, settling down, creating a wonderful home for my son and wife, and ultimately wanting to start my business career because I have huge aspirations in the business world.”
Hentges earned a master’s degree in marketing at Alabama. He met his future wife when she played volleyball for the Crimson Tide.
Hentges said he would have retired even if he had not been hired March 16 by Zebra Technologies as an inside channel account manager for part of the company’s West region. Zebra manufactures and sells marking, tracking and computer printing technologies.
Zebra works with the NFL on player-tracking innovations behind Next Gen Stats. Hentges said there is no immediate plan for him to work in that area, but he would be willing to offer any possible insight as a former player.
“I’m really excited to hit the ground running with Zebra and just contribute to a new team,” Hentges said.