Almost anyone who watched Chris Hogan play in the NFL knows the common refrain.
“Did you know Chris Hogan played lacrosse in college?”
Hogan’s career in the NFL spans 10 years and has featured several successful stints as a wide receiver—most notably with the New England Patriots, with whom he won two Super Bowl titles. Yet, it’s his time playing lacrosse at Penn State that seemed to capture the intrigue of NFL and lacrosse fans alike. His jaw-dropping, big play ability saw him lead the league in yards per reception in 2016, but Hogan’s alter ego as a former lacrosse player always seemed to find its way to the surface.
Well, Chris Hogan isn’t a former lacrosse player anymore; he’s an active lacrosse player. His name is one of many included in the upcoming PLL Entry Draft, where he’ll begin his next chapter as a professional athlete and apex competitor.
“I’ve always loved lacrosse and for me the PLL presented the perfect opportunity to play the sport that I love again and try to play two professional sports.” Hogan said. “Yet, to play two professional sports and be successful, that is a whole other thing. I’m working as hard as possible to be successful at this. I’m trying to prove a point that I can still play at the highest level.”
Hogan’s decision to play pro lacrosse was not a hasty one. In fact, Hogan had pondered the idea for the past couple years. Yet, his desire to still play football kept him from fully committing. It wasn’t until this past December that the opportunity to pursue professional lacrosse finally became a reality.
“I asked to be released [from the Jets] to see if I was going get picked up by a team going into the playoffs, but that never happened,” Hogan explained. “So, around December, I started carrying my lacrosse stick with me to the gym and every single day I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s definitely been a work in progress, but I can definitely say that it’s starting to feel much more natural again, which is exciting to me.”
As Hogan continued to train—stick in hand— both his confidence and ability began to return. So much so that the lefty midfielder clocked his shot at 110 MPH during a recent shooting session.
“It’s not just some sideshow act where I’m trying to get some publicity for the PLL as an NFL guy coming over,” he emphasized. “I’m coming over here as an athlete that wants to compete with [these] guys on the field and earn respect as a lacrosse player.”
Hogan knows that respect can be hard to come by, especially when you’re trying to prove yourself 10 years removed from playing competitive lacrosse. Yet, at the very least, he’ll have some familiar faces in his corner. Archers attackman Grant Ament, the first overall selection in the 2020 PLL College Draft and a former Penn State standout, relates to the type of game an old school PSU guy like Hogan could bring to today’s professional game.
“In terms of his time at Penn State, he was known for being a strong, lefty, do-it-all type middie,” Ament said. “From what I’ve heard from alumni, he was just uber competitive and he definitely brought that to the team. I also know that he was a good leader in terms of holding guys to a standard.”
Ament isn’t the only Archers player rooting for Hogan’s success: goalie Drew Adams was Hogan’s teammate when the duo attended Penn State over a decade ago. Adams recalls that Hogan’s early commitment to lacrosse was evident from day one.
“He was a good athlete and good football player, and had a lot of options coming out of high school, but he chose to come to Penn State to play lacrosse,” Adams recounted. “You immediately got the sense that he was going to be a good fit as a teammate and as a player.”
As Adams alludes to, Hogan’s unique physical gifts are what allowed him to excel in two sports at the collegiate level. This signature style of play is something he hopes to sustain in the PLL.
“[My game] is really just vertical, fast, physical,” he said. “I’m going to try and play as fast as I can, try to be physical, hopefully be able to get away from these guys, get my hands free and show I can play offense, as well as defense.”
Physicality and speed will be a few of the many attributes Hogan will need to rely on as he prepares to play a sport that has changed drastically in the years since he last played competitively. Besides dealing with innovations like the two-point arc and shot clock, he’ll be competing against the best lacrosse players in the world, who have heightened their ball skills as a result of the rapid professionalization present in the PLL.
Yet, the challenge of getting himself back up to speed with his lacrosse skills and knowledge didn’t intimidate Hogan, but rather invigorated him.
“The whole idea of training for something that I haven’t been doing very consistently for 10 years was exciting to me, it brought new life to me,” he said. “I wake up every morning and the first thing I’m doing is playing lacrosse. Shooting or throwing or just doing something of that nature to continue to work on my skills and get those back to where they need to be to play at this level.”
For Hogan, there’s nothing that cannot be accomplished without some good old fashioned hard work; the addiction to getting better through practice and training is something he’s carried with him for his entire career, and he believes it’s what will push him to be successful in professional lacrosse.
“I’m working as hard as possible to be successful at this. I’m not just doing this to go out there and say that I had a chance to run with these guys,” Hogan explained. “I’m approaching this no differently than the 25-year-old kid that was trying to make a roster for the first time.”
“His underdog mentality is very inspiring for a lot of guys,” Ament said. “He embodied what it meant to be a blue-collar worker, which is no surprise coming from Penn State. That’s one of the things we take a lot of pride in.”
“Chris can flip the switch. He has a very strong, competitive demeanor every time he’s on the field,” Adams echoed.
In a sports landscape that emphasizes specialization and doubts the ability of any athlete to make the jump to a different sport, the idea of one doing so after a decade-long break seems almost impossible.
But Chris Hogan isn’t like every other athlete: he’s one that believes his athleticism and mentality are superior to the expectations that others have set for him. In other words, Chris Hogan isn’t just expecting the average observer to doubt him, he’s counting on it.
“I’ve been an underdog my entire career” he said. “I play with a chip on my shoulder and that chip will never leave me no matter how long I play and probably as long as I live. I’m always trying to prove people wrong.”
Pro Lacrosse Talk is the first and only podcast covering all three professional lacrosse leagues (NLL, PLL, Athletes Unlimited). Each week throughout the season, we’ll recap the games, provide analysis on the teams and feature exclusive postgame and off-the-field interviews with professional lacrosse players, coaches and executives.
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