ATLANTA — Six years after his memorable stint on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” as a plucky Miami Dolphins wide receiver, people still are calling Chris Hogan “7-Eleven.”
Hogan said he heard the nickname — coined by former teammate Reggie Bush for the wideout’s ability to be “always open” — Monday during Super Bowl LIII Opening Night and smiled.
“As long as people are calling me that,” he said the following afternoon, “I think I’ll still have a job.”
Hogan, now a starting New England Patriots receiver who’s preparing to play in his third consecutive Super Bowl, has come a long way since “Hard Knocks,” which chronicled his failed attempt to land a Dolphins roster spot in the summer of 2012.
He was released during final roster cuts as the cameras rolled, marking the third time in two seasons the Monmouth football and Penn State lacrosse product had been told “no thank you” by an NFL club.
“I had the whole ‘Hard Knocks’ thing, and that was great,” Hogan said. “That really helped me, kind of put me on the map a little bit. But at the end of the day, I still got cut. I was on the streets looking for a job. …
“I can definitely put myself back in that moment when you kind of put everything you have into a training camp and an offseason, and you’re playing really well, and you’re feeling really good about yourself, and then you get your legs ripped out from underneath you and you get cut.
“But that’s the nature of the business. I had been cut previously before that, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get into this league. I kind of had to pick my head up, drive myself back all the way up to New Jersey and get back to work, because I believed in myself, and that’s really all I need.”
Hogan’s perseverance paid off.
Two months after his Dolphins tenure concluded, he landed a spot on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad. He parlayed that into a late-season promotion to the active roster and never looked back, carving out a solid niche as a core special teamer and complementary receiver in Buffalo from 2013 to 2015 before landing a three-year, $12 million contract with the rival Patriots in 2016.
This season was Hogan’s least productive in New England — he caught 35 passes for 532 yards and three touchdowns after catching 34 for 439 and five in just nine games last season — but his production spiked late in the year following Josh Gordon’s suspension.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, Hogan caught five passes on seven targets for 45 yards — including a one-handed 13-yard pickup late in the fourth quarter — to help send the Patriots back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Hogan, who had six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. “I’ve had a couple moments where I’m talking to my wife or my friends — that moment when you’re like, ‘Man, I’m going back to another Super Bowl.’ It’s just incredible, and I’m just fortunate enough to play on this team. This team is great. The guys here, the coaching staff, Coach (Bill) Belichick, he prepares us so well.
“All the hard work and the dog days of training camp, it’s all worth it, man, to get to this moment and to be here and doing the media and the Super Bowl experience. It’s pretty amazing. I think back to where I was six or seven years ago to where I am now, and I’m just truly blessed, truly fortunate to be in this situation.”
Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images