FOXBORO -- When Hjalte Froholdt chose to make the University of Arkansas his new home, Bret Bielema got a bit of a wakeup call from Froholdt's parents as to just how important that decision was for their son.
"I had a chance to say goodbye to his mom and dad," Bielema remembered last week. "You know, being the head coach at Wisconsin or Arkansas, when you say, 'My kid's coming,' usually he's going to fly a couple states away.
"His mom grabbed me and she's like, 'I'm giving you my son, and tomorrow I'm going to fly halfway around the world.' . . . There's a moment. I'm like, 'All right.' "
Froholdt, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots last month, grew up in Denmark and came to the States as an exchange student as a sophomore in high school. He'd been introduced to football when he was 12, continuing to grow and improve as he played at IMG Academy in Florida, eventually turning himself into a Division 1 recruit.
"I always had an interest in football but mainly it was because I wanted the American experience," Froholdt said soon after the Patriots selected him. "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. 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 super-sized meal and drive some big cars, and it turned out as something really different."
At Arkansas under Bielema, who is now coaching Patriots' defensive linemen, Froholdt transitioned from defensive line to offensive line and was a key cog in the team's power-running schemes. Last year, under a new coaching staff, the Razorbacks played more of a spread style.
"I've just seen from film the Patriots are really multiple," Froholdt said. "They do a bunch of things that try to confuse defenses. I'm excited to try to be a part of it. I need to get there to really figure out what's going on before I can really say anything about how I'll fit in. But I'm just excited to come in and get to know everybody and try to earn some respect in that organization."
Given where the Patriots took him -- Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason are recent fourth-round success stories in New England -- there's already a measure of respect for Froholdt in the organization. And that's despite Froholdt admitting he did not spend much time with team representatives during the pre-draft process.
Bielema's relationship with the player, known simply as "Denmark" to some former teammates, surely played a role in Froholdt ending up in Foxboro for last weekend's rookie minicamp.
It was Bielema who was on the phone almost immediately after Froholdt found out he was being selected. That's a bit unusual -- typically Bill Belichick gets on the horn with players pretty quickly -- but it was fitting given the relationship Froholdt and Bielema ("Coach B") forged years prior during the college recruiting process.
"I've been a part of a lot of different cool phone calls but I never been on the side of telling someone that they're drafted or their opportunity has come true," Bielema said. "I've been there right after the draft. I've been there for different parties but that one was a pretty cool circle. Just the uniqueness of recruiting a player from Denmark -- how many times you get to do that?
"To have him come full circle, I'm excited about him and his opportunity. You guys will enjoy him. He's got a personality. I know we'll put a little wall around him, but I think Hjalte is very dynamic. He's a great person, a great player, and I'm excited for him to see what he can do."
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