Hentges’ team-first attitude earns permanent honor


By Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Irv Smith has been a defensive nightmare this season, as he broke the Alabama single-season record for touchdowns (seven) and receiving yards (667) by a tight end, but Alabama’s other starting tight end has quietly made a name for himself across his four years.

While Hale Hentges hasn’t gotten his name broadcast across hundreds of thousands of televisions, he has been instrumental in the blocking game.

“Every single play, you see him laying his body on the line, whether it’s in the passing game or the running game,” running back Damien Harris said. “Anything that he has to do to help our team be successful he does it.”

He has put his body on the line in all 14 games this season, laying out punishing blocks, but the best example of him giving everything to the team came in the season opener.

On second-and-1 from the Louisville 19-yard line, running back Josh Jacobs took a handoff, bounced to the outside, and sprinted to the end zone, basically untouched. Hentges lost his helmet on the play, but that didn’t stop him from making a key block for Jacobs.

Hentges has started nine of Alabama’s 14 games this season, bringing in three catches for 33 yards. He caught two of the three passes against Texas A&M. Both were touchdowns.

“It was honestly very gratifying, just to be able to realize that, I’ve always been someone that puts the team first, done whatever I can to help out,” Hentges said. “It felt really good to kind of get some self-gratification for once, even though this place is all about the team, the team. That’s always been my first motto, but scoring is something that is just wonderful.”

For his career, he has 14 catches for 123 yards and five touchdowns.

Coming into Alabama, Hentges was a four-star prospect out of high school. He caught 169 passes for 2,559 yards and 34 touchdowns while at Helias, where his father was the offensive coordinator.

“I was always the first option in high school, just as probably most of our players were too,” Hentges said.

When he arrived at Alabama, Hentges had O.J. Howard ahead of him. Since Howard was the already established receiving threat, Hentges went to work blocking. He gained about 20 pounds and became a physical blocker.

“He’s going to go till the whistle blows; he’s going to give you all he’s got,” outside linebacker Christian Miller said. “He does all the dirty work for the team. He might not get the recognition that he deserves, but he’s a physical guy… He ultimately does anything he can for the team.”

His team-first mindset helped transform him into one of the team leaders, and on Dec. 2, he was voted by the players on the team as a permanent team captain.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Hentges said. “That was something that was icing on the cake to a career here. That was something that I dreamed about since I stepped foot on this campus.”

Hentges’ Alabama career comes to an end on Monday in his fourth national championship game. Less than six days later he will enter a new part of his life, as he will get married next weekend.

He said that he has more jitters about the national championship than he does the wedding, because he knows the outcome of the wedding, as opposed to the game Monday night.

“There’s nobody more deserving of having a life full of love and prosperity than someone like Hale,” Harris said.