NFL catch? Twin Cities native preps for a shot at the pros

Jesper Horsted carries the ball in a game against Harvard in 2018.
Princeton University wide receiver Jesper Horsted carries the ball in a game against Harvard University in October 2018.
Patrick Tewey | Courtesy of Princeton Athletics 2018

Jesper Horsted needs to trim less than one-tenth of a second off his 40-yard dash time. He also needs to knock down a 75-page research paper. That's his life right now as he prepares to graduate from Princeton and take his shot at the NFL.

A Shoreview native who starred at Roseville Area High School, Horsted hopes to put himself on the cusp of an NFL career on March 25 when Princeton hosts tryouts in front of pro football scouts. He's Princeton's all-time leader in passes caught and touchdowns scored by a wide receiver.

He made a good impression in January in the East-West Shrine Game, a college football all-star game, bringing down an over-the-shoulder pass with a defender draped over him.

"For a guy his size, he has amazing body control," said Princeton coach Bob Surace. "He made, almost every game, at least one spectacular catch that not many other people in this world can make."

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Lately, Horsted's running a different kind of drill, supplying NFL scouts all the information they require on him. They were relentless during the week before the East-West Shrine game.

"Basically, any time that you are not sleeping or eating or at practice, that's their time pretty much," Horsted, 22, said of the NFL scouts. "So, they will grab you and have like 30-minute-long interviews. They're really nonstop. People were exhausted. And then on top of that, there's a lot of various testing that they do of the players. That's like reflex testing, memory testing, intelligence testing, personality type testing."

Some of the questions surprised him.

"They started quizzing me on little plays from my football past, like what coverage did you face against Penn," Horsted said. "What number was the cornerback you were going against most of the game? And then these memory questions progressed into random things like, 'What were you doing on the night of Dec. 21 in 2018?' And I was like, 'Man, I don't even know.' There's a lot of random questions that might not make sense to an athlete and there's a lot of pretty intrusive questions about background, personal history and family and stuff."

At the Princeton pro day, scouts from the NFL will evaluate his strength, agility and speed. The NFL will hold its college player draft at the end of April and graduation day at Princeton is about a month later.

Listed on the Princeton football site at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Horsted knows speed is as important as height and hands for an NFL wide receiver.

So, shaving a bit off his 40-yard dash time could be a difference-maker in front of the scouts.

"I've been spending hours and hours working on my stance and my starts and my top speed, and I've been working out with our sprinter coach on the track team three days a week," he said. "I've been running my whole life in all these sports, but I never really learned how to properly run and properly accelerate."

Many of the other college players hoping to get drafted by an NFL team are already finished with school and can devote all their time to training. Horsted, though, still has a lot of school work to complete so he can earn his degree in sociology.

"I'm only in three classes right now, but I do have to write a 75-page research paper on top of all that," he said. "My free minutes are pretty much used up."