Chris Hogan’s path to NFL glory can best be described as the road less travelled. The former Penn State lacrosse standout turned some heads during his days in Happy Valley, but Hogan was never supposed to ascend to such lofty heights.
But he never gave up. He was handsomely rewarded for his determination and desire to do what others said he could never accomplish on Sunday night after reeling in nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns — a New England Patriots playoff receiving record — that stunned the collective football world and helped propel the Patriots to Super Bowl LI where they’ll face Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
His incredible night didn’t just help push his team to victory — it put him in the same conversation as Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown.
Only two players this postseason have 100 receiving yards and two TDs in a half: Antonio Brown … and Chris Hogan. pic.twitter.com/vtOgxszLyX
— ESPN (@espn) January 23, 2017
Hogan’s last few years in the NFL have been far from uneventful; while his career got off to a slow start after being cut by the San Fransisco 49ers, New York Giants, and Miami Dolphins — where Reggie Bush famously dubbed him “7-Eleven” because he was “always open” in training camp — Hogan finally found a home with the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo’s decision to promote him from the practice squad paid dividends as Hogan would go on to enjoy a breakout season in 2014. He finished the season with 41 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns, and would follow that performance up with a career-high 450 yard season in 2015, but opted to sign with the Patriots in the offseason after the team presented the restricted free agent an offer that the Bills — who had some significant salary cap decisions to make that season — were unable to match.
The rest is history.
Julio Jones and Chris Hogan took different paths to Sunday stardom pic.twitter.com/xmgQuOUABM
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2017
What makes Hogan’s magical night so special was that he posted the exact same stat line as arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL — Julio Jones. But the respective paths taken by Jones and Hogan — who will meet in Houston for one of the more highly anticipated Super Bowls in recent memory — are polar opposites.
Jones was the top wide receiver in the Class of 2008. Hogan was an All-State selection in New Jersey who received a handful of mid-level Division I offers. Jones became the first true freshman wide receiver to start a season opener in Alabama history and went on to become one of the most prolific players in Crimson Tide History. Hogan became a feared goal scorer on the lacrosse field, posting a high of 29 his junior year. Jones was selected by the Atlanta Falcons — who traded five draft picks to move up and take him — with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Hogan went undrafted.
Now, their paths collide on the grandest stage of them all. Nittany Lions across the globe will be cheering Hogan’s name on Feb. 5.