HOUSTON — Chris Hogan currently is one of the top offensive weapons on arguably the NFL’s best team. But just a few years ago, he wondered whether he’d need to give up football entirely.
Before becoming an everyday player for the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and subsequently signing with the New England Patriots last offseason, Hogan tried and failed to land a roster spot with three different NFL clubs — the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.
His ill-fated stint in Miami was the most high-profile of those attempts, as it coincided with the Dolphins’ appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Having spent most of the 2011 season on Miami’s practice squad, the wide receiver impressed during training camp in 2012, earning the nickname “7/11” from teammate Reggie Bush and playing a starring role in the documentary series.
The Dolphins ultimately released Hogan in the final round of roster cuts, however, and after carrying him on their practice squad for an additional week, they cut ties with him altogether.
Fast forward to 2017, when Hogan is preparing to play in his first Super Bowl after setting a Patriots franchise record for receiving yards in the AFC Championship Game. Speaking with reporters Wednesday at the team’s Super Bowl LI hotel, the New Jersey native reflected on how far he’s come since those dark days in South Florida.
“I had a great offseason when I was down there, a great training camp,” Hogan recalled. “That is where I got the nickname. I was on ‘Hard Knocks’ all that time. It was great, a lot of exposure. A lot of good feedback from coaches telling me I had a good training camp. And I got cut.
“It was emotional. Obviously, anytime you get cut from a football team it is tough. For me, it was an eye-opening experience. As good as I played and as good as I thought I played, it wasn’t enough. I drove back that day, all the way back to New Jersey, and was working out the next day just to wait for another opportunity. Really from that moment on, I haven’t stopped.”
Primarily a depth player during his time with the Bills, Hogan played a major role in the Patriots’ offense upon arriving in Foxboro. He started 14 games, set a career high for receiving yards (680) and finished the regular season tied for the NFL lead in average yards per catch (17.9).
Hogan has been even more productive since the playoffs began, catching a total of 13 passes on 16 targets for 275 yards and two touchdowns in wins over the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hogan retraced his long NFL road Thursday in a Players’ Tribune essay titled “One More.”
“I haven’t won a championship of any kind since high school, and the celebration then wasn’t a huge production,” he wrote. “We didn’t have confetti. So winning the AFC championship was the first confetti-worthy moment of my life. I was really just enjoying the moment, trying to take it all in. But I couldn’t help but be excited. I mean … we were going to the Super Bowl. I was so hyped I could barely contain myself.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images