Saturday, September 14, 2013
Football journey: Chris Hogan
By Mike Rodak
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ask most sports fans in the Northeast, especially the mid-Atlantic, and they'll tell you this much: Lacrosse is a big deal.
It doesn't come as much of a surprise, then, that Buffalo Bills receiver Chris Hogan -- a native of Wyckoff, N.J. -- chose lacrosse over football. The two-sport athlete, an all-state selection in football at Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, was also the 2006 New Jersey Midfielder of the Year in lacrosse.
But after four seasons on Penn State's lacrosse team, it was time for a change. Hogan transferred to Monmouth University, back home in New Jersey, to play football, and later entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Hogan is just one of a few to make the switch from college lacrosse to an NFL career. Former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney (who played lacrosse at Virginia) was a two-time Pro Bowler, while Miami Dolphins guard Will Yeatman (Notre Dame and Maryland lacrosse) and Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka (Middlebury lacrosse) have also found a home in the NFL.
Chris Hogan played four years of college lacrosse before transferring and switching back to football.
After a strong preseason that earned him a spot on the active roster, Hogan has settled into Buffalo. Here is his full Q&A with ESPN.com this week:
Early roots in football: "I started playing soccer when I was little. The coaches told me I was too aggressive, so I started to play football. I started when I was in sixth grade, playing Pop Warner. I played running back, quarterback, cornerback ... all over the place. With soccer, I was out there just kicking a ball around on the field. Football was more fun for me."
Favorite memory at Ramapo High School: "We went to the state championship my sophomore year. We played at Giants Stadium. I got my first start that game and was player of the game. I had four catches for 100-plus yards, and a touchdown that won the game. That was one of my best memories from high school."
Family attending Bills at Jets in Week 3: "Everyone's down there. There'll be about 50 people at the game. I'll have a good crowd there."
Role models growing up: "When I grew up I was a huge Michael Jordan fan. That's not very unusual for people to like him, but I just liked reading his books, especially where he came from, getting cut from his high school team. I thought he was a good person, a good role model to look up to."
Choosing lacrosse over football: "I had offers from Rutgers, Temple, UConn, Akron. Lacrosse was my bigger thing. I had offers from Maryland, Penn State, Syracuse. I was looking at North Carolina, and all those other schools. That was a tough decision I had to make. I chose lacrosse just because no one was telling me, 'Hey, five years from now you'll be playing football in the NFL.' Penn State was an awesome school. When I went and visited there, I was like 'Alright, I want to spend four years of college here.'"
Transferring to Monmouth University: "When I decided to play football again, I had a redshirt year. I was kind of tired of lacrosse. I had done it for four years. Someone stuck the idea in my head to play football. I ran with it, did all I needed to do. Transferring was a pain, but Monmouth was the end result, which was awesome."
Favorite memory at Monmouth: "My first play, first catch was a touchdown. We played Colgate. Just being back out there was awesome. I was playing both sides of the ball again. It was like I was back in high school."
Choosing to pursue an NFL career: "Professional lacrosse isn't very lucrative. I was done with lacrosse. I obviously have ties to that, coaching and doing stuff in the summer, but football is my main focus and I put all my energy towards trying to do this."
Making the 53-man roster: "There's no other feeling like that, especially after going to San Francisco, the Giants, then Miami, now here. All on the practice squad. Making the 53 is a pretty unbelievable achievement for me, from where I came from. It's just something I'm working hard at, and have to continue to work hard at it, because it's not like I'm a starter. I have to keep going."
Experience on HBO's "Hard Knocks" last summer: "It was cool. I tried not to pay attention to it. Obviously it's hard not to when they're there every single day. But the "Hard Knocks" thing was a good experience for me. It obviously gave me a lot of exposure going forward, after I got cut. I look at it as a positive thing, because teams had a good idea of who I was already just from the show."
If teammates still call him "7-11:" "Yeah. It's not a bad nickname. It's not like it's dissing my game at all. I'll take it. It's my first nickname."