HUDSON, Wis.-- Alex Herink admits it was a far-fetched dream, but one that’s still alive.
“At first I didn’t know what to expect,” he said about going out for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls football team in 2018. “It seemed a little far-fetched being in the basketball realm. Now that I’m sitting here I can’t say it was one of those things where I’d say, yeah I could see this happening. But it’s pretty cool to be sitting where I am right now.”
Where Herink is sitting is on the radar of a host of pro teams heading into this weekend’s NFL draft.
Herink isn’t your typical NFL prospect. After graduating from Hudson High School in 2014 as the Raider boys’ basketball team’s all-time leading scorer, he played two years of basketball at Minnesota State University-Mankato before transferring to UWRF, where he led the Falcons to just their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history on his way to being named All-American and WIAC Player of the Year in 2017.
But he also had plenty of success on the football field in high school. He was a member of Hudson's back-to-back Big Rivers Conference and state semifinal teams in 2012 and 2013, earning All-BRC Second Team honors as a senior after catching 24 passes for 511 yards and five touchdowns.
So when he found out he still had football eligibility left following his senior season of basketball at UWRF, the 6-foot-7-inch Herink packed on 20 pounds and traded his sneakers for cleats.
“It was kind of a far-fetched dream, but honestly after I got done with basketball I was talking with Coach (Jeff) Berkhoff, my basketball coach at UWRF, and he basically said, you’ve got the body for it and we can put some size on you and you have the athleticism. Why not give it a shot?”
It turned out to be a bullseye.
Playing football for the first time in five years, Herink tied the UWRF school record for touchdown catches in a season with nine, while finishing the year with 36 receptions for 692 yards on his way to earning All-WIAC Second Team honors.
His size and athleticism drew the attention of a handful of NFL scouts, but they wanted to see more.
So Herink returned to UWRF as a graduate student last fall for his final semester of eligibility and caught 60 passes for 938 yards and five touchdowns to earn a spot on the All-WIAC First Team. He set a single-game UWRF record for receiving yards with 266 in a 63-49 loss to UW-La Crosse Oct. 19, an achievement that earned him the D3football.com Player of the Week award.
He said coming back for a second season of football helped raise his stock immensely.
“I think it was pretty significant,” he said. “The first year was basically just trying to learn the playbook and understand the college football level. Just trying to put it all together and it was a lot to take on right away. But having that second year, you kind of understand the playbook already and you’re perfecting your game when it comes to the receiver position; routes and techniques you can use and blocking and all sorts of stuff. I think it really benefited me.”
At 6-7, 246-pounds, Herink was an imposing college wide receiver, but he figures NFL teams will be more interested in him as a tight end. He was invited to take part in UW-Whitewater’s Pro Day March 11 and has continued to learn the nuances of his new position ever since.
“The biggest thing will be coming out of the three-point stance,” he said. “I didn’t have to do any of that in high school and only did it a few times at River Falls. Coming out of a three-point stance and blocking will be a little bit of a learning experience. But I’m comfortable compared to where I started.”
While Herink doesn’t expect to be selected in this weekend’s draft, he does hope to hear from a team when the draft is over.
“I’m hoping to go as an undrafted free agent,” he said. “I guess the best route would be getting a contract for training camp so I know I have a place to go compared to just hope somebody gives me an invite. Either way it will be exciting to see what happens.”