Chris Hogan almost bristles at the suggestion that he wouldn’t necessarily be a Penn State football fan.
“I’m blue and white through and through,” Hogan insisted during the Super Bowl’s media night session Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
Hogan is a wide receiver in his second season with the New England Patriots after spending four years at Buffalo.
He spent four years at Penn State, but didn’t play one down at Beaver Stadium
That’s because he was a member of the Nittany Lions’ fledgling lacrosse program.
He was injured in one of those lacrosse seasons and received a medical redshirt, which allowed him to go back to one of his other loves and play one year of college football.
Back to football: That year was spent at Monmouth in West Long Branch, N.J., in 2010. Making up for lost time, Hogan played on both sides of the ball for veteran Hawks coach Kevin Callahan, racking up 28 tackles and three interceptions as a cornerback and 12 catches and three TDs as a receiver.
Hogan played at Ramapo High School in New Jersey and Callahan recruited him as a football player while he received numerous scholarship offers in lacrosse.
After bouncing around with the 49ers, Giants and Dolphins in 2011-12 and gaining some notoriety during Miami’s turn on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Hogan latched on with the Bills.
Now, he’s in his second season with the Pats and could earn a second straight Super Bowl ring Sunday night.
“I had a lot of ups and downs and lefts and rights along the way,” Hogan said. “Once I started out on this journey of wanting to play in the National Football League, I’ve had a lot of opportunities. And with each opportunity, I’ve tried to make the most of it. I know they don’t come very often in this business, so every chance I get to step out on the field, wherever it was, I worked as hard as I could.”
Battling shoulder injury: Hogan has had trouble getting on the field this season.
He missed seven of New England’s final eight games of the regular season with a shoulder injury. He came back to catch a touchdown pass against the Titans in the divisional round and could be a key weapon against the Eagles.
In the nine games he played, he had 34 receptions for 439 yards and five TDs.
He’s not quite the Pats’ version of Vince Papale, whose improbable Eagles career was immortalized in the film “Invincible,” but Hogan certainly has come a long way from the lacrosse field to play in the last two Super Bowls.
“Monmouth was important to me because that was the first stepping stone,” he said. “I am very grateful to the Monmouth program for taking a chance on a four-year lacrosse player who had a year of eligibility left. It was an awesome experience to go back there and play football again, especially since it was close to home.”
Happy Valley has special place in his heart: But that doesn’t mean he has forgotten about his Penn State years. In fact, Happy Valley will always have a special place in his heart.
“I met my wife [former Penn State women’s lacrosse player Ashley Boccio] there and we follow the Penn State lacrosse program all year long,” he said. “I still have tons of relationships I developed there and my four years there were unforgettable.”
And although he didn’t play football at Penn State, he still roots for those Nittany Lions as well.
“Of course, I root for them,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I? They were great last year.”
Undoubtedly, he will be buying lots of Penn State gear for his girl-boy twins, Parker and Chase, who were born six weeks after last year’s Super Bowl.
“I have a new-found respect for all of the fathers and the families out there and the guys who have kids and wives at home,” Hogan said. “It’s tasking. It’s a lot of fun to be able to share special moments with my kids and wife. It’s been a unique and crazy year with them living at home, but it has been a great experience for all of us. Any chance I get to go home and see them, I jump on that opportunity. Facetime doesn’t really do it for me.”
Hogan was also married last summer, so there’s a whole new set of fans cheering him on.
“It’s going to be very special to have them here,” he said. “Ashley wasn’t at the Super Bowl last year because she was pregnant. They’re in this with me. They’ve supported me the entire year and everything I’ve been through. I am happy to have them here to experience this with me.”