Meet Hjalte Froholdt, Patriots’ Most Interesting 2019 NFL Draft Pick

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April 27, 2019

Typically, a fourth-round interior offensive lineman wouldn’t be viewed as a particularly interesting draft pick.

Hjalte Froholdt is an exception to that rule.

Froholdt, a guard/center out of Arkansas whom the New England Patriots selected with the 118th pick Saturday afternoon, has a fascinating backstory. He was born in Denmark, a country not exactly known for pumping out NFL talent.

How did he get from there to the SEC and, ultimately, to Foxboro? He offered a brief synopsis during his introductory news conference.

“So, actually, I started playing football back in Denmark when I was 12,” Froholdt explained. “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.”

Froholdt’s exchange program brought him to Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio, where he played defensive end, tight end and punter. Restrictions regarding exchange students forced him to return home for his junior year — during which he played for a senior football team called the Gold Diggers as well as the Danish national team — before enrolling at Florida sports factory IMG Academy as a senior.

“I always had an interest in football, but mainly it was because I wanted the American experience,” Froholdt said when asked why he came to the U.S. in the first place. “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.”

Indeed it did.

While at IMG, Froholdt blossomed into a four-star defensive tackle recruit, garnering offers from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. He picked Arkansas, and after spending his freshman season as a reserve D-tackle under head coach Bret Bielema (who’s now a Patriots assistant), he switched positions.

By the time his sophomore season arrived, Froholdt had taken over as the Razorbacks’ starting left guard. He started all 37 games over his final three collegiate seasons — 34 at left guard and three at center — and ranked among the nation’s best pass-blocking guards.

He’s the second Danish player ever selected in the NFL draft. Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen was the first.

In New England, Froholdt will back up interior linemen Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason, and could be next in line at left guard if Thuney leaves in free agency next offseason.

“I love the game of football,” said Froholdt, who was a team captain and second-team All-SEC selection as a senior. “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. 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.”

Here are a few more things to know about the Patriots’ new O-lineman:

— His first name is pronounced “YELL-duh.”

“Some people thought it was pretty hard to pronounce my name,” Froholdt said, “so they just called me ‘Denmark.’ ”

— At Arkansas, he played with Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise, whom he called “the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever been around.”

“He’s always happy,” the lineman said. “He’s always excited, and he plays with extreme passion and a motor that is really uncanny. I’m really excited to go and join him. It’s going to be awesome to reunite.”

— Froholdt got an early look at the Patriots during Super Bowl LIII, which he covered as a broadcaster for a Danish television network.

“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,” he said.

— As a kid, Froholdt dreamed of becoming a French art thief. Yes, you read that correctly.

“I don’t know why, but me and my childhood friend, Carl, we wanted to be burglars in France,” he said. “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.”

Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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