CINCINNATI — Mac Hippenhammer didn’t know what would come from a rookie minicamp tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he had been in front of their staff at a pre-draft local player workout in April and hoped they just needed one more confirmation before signing him.
The former Miami University wide receiver did enough during a brief 45-minute workout in the team’s indoor training facility May 12 to make the Bengals feel comfortable inking him to a deal as an undrafted college free agent.
Not everyone that attended as a tryout player made the cut, but Hippenhammer was grateful for his opportunity to continue.
“It was a crazy experience the last couple of months,” Hippenhammer said Tuesday, in his second week with the full squad at the Bengals’ offseason workout program. “I kind of just told myself to not get too high or low, just stay in between and whatever is meant to be will be, so I’m glad the way things played out and it’s great that I got a chance.
“I didn’t expect for me to be here obviously right now, but yeah, came in, just was gonna do the tryout and then obviously after that I got signed. So that was pretty cool. My life just changed drastically in like the last week. It’s all coming pretty fast, but it was still surreal.”
Hippenhammer began his college career at Penn State but was mostly limited to special teams, so he decided to transfer after the 2018-2019 season. He also was on the baseball team and wanted to continue in both sports.
Miami gave him that opportunity, though after one year he ended up deciding to focus on football. He spent three seasons with the RedHawks football team, starting 21 of 26 games, all but one of those appearances coming in 2021 and 2022. He finished with 769 yards and nine touchdowns on 54 catches in 2022.
“Miami gave me the platform I needed, and here I am,” Hippenhammer said. “Last year, I feel I was at my best mentally as a football player. So I don’t know, I think I was able to handle my emotions better this past year, whether it’s like, you know, not making a play and not being like, ‘That’s the end of the world,’ instead of just waiting for the next play and just letting things play out. I think that’s kind of one of the biggest things I learned, just not to beat myself up so much. I do the work, I put in the work to preparation so no need to stress over something like that.”
Now he’s hoping that translates to a successful stint with the Bengals. There are no guarantees at this point, but Hippenhammer put in a good tryout and did what he “needed to do” to stay for now, and he plans to keep working to show he can add something in the long-term too.
Hippenhammer will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself in offseason workouts then training camp in August.
“I’m not really like too flashy because I kind of just stay at one level but I’d like to think it looks good,” Hippenhammer said. “Consistency. … I pride my game on being quick and I think this is a great league to exploit those talents.”
A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hippenhammer isn’t far from home, but his only connection to the Bengals was his friendship with former Bengals safety Jessie Bates.
They both graduated from Nelson R. Snider High School, and even though their time there only overlapped for one year before Bates went off to Wake Forest in 2015, Hippenhammer became close friends with him. Hippenhammer missed a chance to play with Bates by one year. The standout free safety left in free agency this offseason.
“He reached out to me after I had signed and was just being really supportive about everything and just like, ‘If you need a place to stay, just let me know,’” Hippenhammer said. “Yeah, just being supportive. He told me this is a solid group of people and people really care about you here, and I’m kind of seeing it so far. All good things.”
Hippenhammer said he would have been happy for any opportunity, but landing with a team coming off back-to-back AFC Championship appearances was a dream. He plans to make the most of a chance to continue his development around players like Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
“Honestly, it’s like the greatest opportunity to be in the position I am with a team that’s accomplished what they have because I get to learn from the people who have been at the pinnacle of football,” Hippenhammer said. “So, I think that’s like one of the biggest advantages and benefits of me being here is just to learn as much stuff as I can from everyone, doesn’t matter what position. So, I’m just really learning and I’m appreciative of this and the people around me.”
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