|Alan Diaz/Associated Press|
|Miami Dolphins receiver (and former college lacrosse star) Chris Hogan has charted an unlikely path to the NFL.|
When they agreed to be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the folks in charge of the Miami Dolphins were likely seeking the benefit of remedial publicity -- a way to announce that theirs is indeed a new regime that can provide a counterpoint to the years of lackluster quarterbacks and failed coaches.
It seemed to be working. Joe Philbin, the rookie head coach, was coming off as a likable, earnest sort. Also making a good first impression: rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a young man of many blessings, not the least of which is an absurdly telegenic wife. Finally, there was Chad Javon Johnson (née Ochocinco). At the advanced age of 34, having just endured a terrible season with the New England Patriots, the game's one-time exuberant prince seemed both chastened and oddly sympathetic.
Now you know better. And so do I. With his arrest on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge -- did it happen just a week ago? -- Johnson embarrassed everyone, though no one worse than himself, and he was subsequently released by the team. The incident exacted yet another price, however: It overwhelmed and obscured every other narrative thread surrounding the Dolphins. What Sir Thomas Gresham once said of money applies to journalism, as well: Bad news drives out good news.
So I'm taking this opportunity to remind you of Chris Hogan, the pride of Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, N.J. Hogan was a four-year starter and leading scorer at Penn State. Unfortunately for him -- at least, given his present situation -- the sport he starred in was lacrosse, not football.
That's not to say Hogan didn't play college football. He did -- as a fifth-year senior at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. If he didn't exactly establish himself as a lock to make the NFL, the two-way player did put up one of the greatest, oddest statistical lines in the history of the game. Of the 15 balls he caught during the 2010 season, three were touchdowns, three were interceptions.
"I didn't want to live with any regrets," Hogan told me Sunday afternoon.
During a pro day at Fordham, Hogan benched 225 pounds 28 times, which is not bad for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound guy.
"I had a hell of a pro day," he said. "Right up there with the best in the country."
Still, his body of work was too skimpy for the scouting establishment. Hogan went undrafted in 2011 and embarked on a typically anonymous and very high-risk career: He became a practice-squad player. While with the San Francisco 49ers, he rolled his ankle in a scrimmage. He got cut. He went home to Wyckoff, N.J., where he worked out and coached lacrosse. Then he signed with the New York Giants. He got cut again. Finally, during the last week of last season, he had a good workout with Miami.
It's worth noting that the Dolphins' prospects at wide receiver are dismal enough this year that they invited a controversial, past-his-prime 34-year-old to camp. But this is Hogan's shot.
"I don't have any doubt in my physical ability," he told me. "I'm trying to be a reliable guy, a guy coaches can trust."
I asked him if he's a receiver or a safety.
"A receiver," he said. "I'm a lot more comfortable running routes than backpedaling. I'm fast, physical, quick."
In other words: I'm not just a hard worker. I'm an athlete.
Hogan reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. Even more importantly, he can get open. That's why Dolphins running back Reggie Bush famously christened him "7-Eleven" -- as in, open 24 hours -- on last week's episode of "Hard Knocks." However, after Hogan caught just one ball in the team's preseason opener, Johnson was arrested and cut, and Hogan's story went dead.
But then the other night against the Carolina Panthers, Hogan caught three passes, including one for 17 yards, from backup quarterbacks Pat Devlin and Matt Moore. One wonders what Hogan could do if paired with Lauren Tannehill's husband. Hogan wonders, too.
I asked him if he got any advice from Chad Johnson.
"No," he said. "I didn't get a chance to speak with him."
Probably better that way.
Follow Mark Kriegel on Twitter @Mark Kriegel.