Unlike all the other folks – coaches and players – that have been previously featured in this series, Chris Hogan might represent the biggest gut punch of them all for Miami Dolphins fans.
Fans pretty much knew what coaches Dan Quinn (Atlanta, former Dolphins D-Line coach 2005-06), Richard Smith (Atlanta, former Dolphins defensive coordinator 2005), Bryan Cox (Atlanta, former Dolphins linebacker 1991-95 and assistant coach 2011) and Brian Daboll (New England, former Dolphins offensive coordinator 2011) had to offer.
Miami fans even got to watch linebacker Philip Wheeler (Atlanta) play for two seasons and got a small sample size of then-defensive end Rob Ninkovich (New England) before they took their talents elsewhere.
In Hogan’s case, he never made it to Miami’s active roster.
Sure, he made regular appearances and pretty much became a cult hero on the Dolphins’ go-round on the NFL’s reality-TV look into training camp in HBO’s Hard Knocks series, but the man who became known as “7-Eleven” never gained any traction in Miami.
Hogan, a college lacrosse player turned wide receiver, was an undrafted rookie signee of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He was in the Bay Area for all of two months – July to September – before being released. The New York Giants signed the 6-foot-2 Hogan to their practice a week and a half later, only to cut him 11 days later.
The Dolphins swooped in a signed Hogan to their practice squad that December. The team even inked him to a reserve/future contract in January 2012, showing their interest in keeping him in the organization.
As Hogan went through training camp in Miami, he flashed athleticism and raw potential. He earned the moniker “7-Eleven” from former Dolphins running back Reggie Bush as he said Hogan was “always open”.
Though he was “always open”, Miami closed the door on Hogan – making him one of its final training camp cuts. They opted to re-sign him to the practice squad but ultimately terminated his contract in the opening weeks of the season.
To think, then-Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin wanted to keep Legedu Naanee (who?) over Hogan.
But as they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.
The Buffalo Bills signed Hogan to their practice squad in November 2012 and ended up promoting him to the active roster that December.
2013 was pretty uneventful for “7-Eleven”, but 2014 turned out to be his breakout year – totaling 41 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns for the Bills.
2015 was another decent year for Hogan – 450 yards and two scores – as he headed into restricted free agency.
In typical evil empire fashion, New England offered Hogan a three-year offer sheet for $12 million – $7.5 million guaranteed – before the start of the 2016 season. The deal was too rich for Buffalo’s blood, so Hogan became a Patriot.
Hogan started 14 games for New England this season and caught 38 passes for a career-high 680 yards and four touchdowns. Better yet, Hogan’s 17.9 yards per catch average was good enough for second in the NFL this season.
Hogan truly ingratiated himself with New England fans with his performance in the AFC Championship game – catching nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ win over Pittsburgh.
Now, “7-Eleven” finds himself preparing to play in Sunday’s Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.
The guy who was cut four different times in the first year of his career is now one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets.