When one first sees Boston College commit senior offensive tackle Otto Hess, one immediately notices his size. He’s 6 foot 7 inches tall. If that height is hard to visualize, picture an average height female: 5 feet 4 inches. Hess is that tall sitting down. Being a football player, coaches also notice his size.
“My first impression of him at Thompson [Junior High] was that I was looking forward to coaching someone with that size,” OHS football Coach Micahel Wulff said.
Wulff would coach Hess in football his freshman year and in the weight room throughout his high school career, but first a backstory on how Hess got to where he is now: a 3-star offensive tackle committed to a Division 1, Power 5 school.
When Hess was in late elementary school, he was a tall, goofy kid that loved music. He enjoyed playing video games with his friends and he was fascinated by world history. Hess never gave much thought to playing football during elementary school, but he had always been told that he should play because of his size. In 6th grade, after Hess learned that a few of his friends were playing football, he decided he’d give it a go. Hess promptly signed up to play for the newly formed team Pop Warner Silver.
“I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy the running at all; I didn’t like getting pushed around,” Hess said. “I was still in this phase in my life where I was one of the big kids and I have a lot of girl cousins, my only other boy cousin is five years older than me.”
Hess’ inability to play with other people around his own size later influenced the way he played football.
“My other cousins I couldn’t [push around], I couldn’t do that: I was always told you can’t fight back because you don’t know your own strength, you’re too big,” Hess said. “So in football I was really timid like that… I didn’t really get that I was able to do a lot more than I was doing [physically].”
Hess eventually was able to break through that mental barrier and become a player those on the other side of the ball dreaded lining up against. However, it wasn’t just a simple flip of a switch; it took multiple years of mental and physical growth for Hess to vault past two key obstacles.
The first was practice.
“I just didn’t like practice; I used to want to be sick and miss practice sometimes,” Hess said. “I’d just go out there and just try to get by and not do as much as I could, but then I realized I can either grind right now in practice and then come midseason when I’m starting and start to take more breaks and just be ready for games and manage myself then, or I could sit out now and come midseason I’m not gonna do well; I’m not gonna start.”
The second was adjusting to the size of his body.
“All of the sudden I have these long arms and legs and I’ve gotta learn how to move—and that happened junior year my offensive line coach kinda knows that and we talk about it,” Hess said. “One day I was like: ‘Oh, I’m not flailing around anymore—I can control what I’m doing and I can have purpose when I move.’”
Once Hess made it past these two key obstacles, he made a realization.
“I realize[d] that this is a process, and if I just trust the process it’ll work out eventually; and I can’t just rush certain things,” Hess said. “I see guys in college that I want to look like but—they’re 22 years old and I just turned 18: there’s four years there that I can’t accelerate. I can lift as much as I want but I can’t accelerate me just being older.”
Hess emanates a maturity and a sense of practicality that has been crucial in his journey to his current standpoint. This thought is echoed by Coach Wulff, someone who Hess views as a confidant, and someone who has coached Hess through his trials and tribulations.
“His mind is a strength,” Wulff said. “He will be the first to tell you that he does not come across as the most intelligent person because of his goofy demeanor, but Otto is able to put in the work menatlly which helps him prepare each week.”
Hess is still the same goofy guy he was back in grade school, but an improved mindset where he can balance work with play and a newfound comfort with his body earned him a new level of playing ability that he couldn’t reach before.
“Junior year, after about week five I was like, ‘alright—not a lot of people were messing with me,’” Hess said. “I started to figure out how to move correctly and how to push people and how to be angry and hit. There aren’t a lot of people in the state that are gonna be messing with me.”
Hess had transformed himself from a passive, discombobulated player who worried about hurting the opposing player to a ferocious machine that attempts to punish everything within his path. This evolution garnered the attention of numerous colleges and universities. Hess attracted various schools from all over the country, but his decision came down to two.
“It came down to Boston [College] and another school,” Hess said. “I’m not going to name [the other school], but things just didn’t work out with [them]. I was actually considering them over Boston for a while, but when the coaches [of the other school] showed their true colors it was a pretty easy decision.”
Now, Hess is a tackle commit to Boston College with an intriguing future. Hess plans on staying at Boston College all four years and getting his degree, but in what he is currently unsure. Post-college leaves interesting possibilities for Hess: if all goes utterly perfect in football—in terms of both progression and circumstances—maybe a chance to play at the next level opens up. On the other hand, if Hess’ studies resonate with him, maybe a career through academics is the direction he chooses.
The future is unknown and a football or academic career are just two of many potential futures for Hess. One thing is for certain however, along his journey through college and into the future, Hess will trust the process.