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Despite rejections, Hoag gives NFL another try

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Journeyman receiver Ryan Hoag has been cut 10 times trying to make rosters in the NFL, the CFL and the AFL.

He was even one of the first guys axed from the reality television series "The Bachelorette" in May.

Despite all the rejection, the final pick of the 2003 NFL draft refuses to give up his dream of playing professional football.

"I just need that one team, that one break, that one coach to fall in love with me," Hoag said Monday. "I really see myself as fast enough, tall enough. I can jump out of the gym and those type of things. I just need a team to believe in me and work with me and watch it grow."

Given Jacksonville's receiver situation, Hoag might be in the right spot.

Jerry Porter (hamstring) and Reggie Williams (knee) opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Dennis Northcutt (back) and Mike Walker (knee) have missed practices because of injuries. And Matt Jones' future has been clouded by a felony drug charge.

Hoag, meanwhile, has been far from "Mr. Irrelevant" for the Jaguars.

Although still a long shot to make the final roster, Hoag has gotten more repetitions in three days than he did in a few of his previous five training camps.

"You learn to not worry about anything and put your trust in your faith and know that as long as you're doing everything you can do to better yourself and your team, the chips will fall where they may," Hoag said. "It's all about perseverance."

A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, Hoag waited more than six hours for his name to be called during the second day of the 2003 draft. He had heard about "Mr. Irrelevant," but had no idea all it entailed - the Lowsman Trophy and a weeklong celebration in Newport Beach, Calif.

"I can't say enough great things about it," Hoag said. "I went back this year for my third or fourth time, and they still treated me like royalty. They put you up in a beach house, they wine and dine you and give you the red-carpet treatment. It's amazing."

The organizing committee even asked Hoag to speak at the most recent banquet in June.

"I just gave a few tips to the new Mr. Irrelevant," said Hoag, who also has worked as a model and substitute schoolteacher. "It was all about perseverance. I told him (NFL teams) keep bringing me back because I define irrelevance. I've been cut 10 times, played in the Arena League and CFL and NFL Europe and yet I'm still hanging around."

Hoag was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 262nd overall pick (he got a $16,000 signing bonus), but didn't make it to the regular season. He also spent time with the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins.

Although he was active for three games in 2004, he has never played a down during the regular season. He has played in more than 15 preseason games and even caught a touchdown pass from Mark Brunell last year in Jacksonville.

But none of his NFL stops panned out, leading him to play for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe and Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Most recently, he unsuccessfully tried out for the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League.

Hoag was rejected again a few months later, this time as one of 25 men courting the same girl on "The Bachelorette." He was booted off at the end of the second episode, after he expressed his strong religious beliefs and made it clear he was still a virgin.

"I wear my heart on my sleeve," he said. "I'm not afraid to say who I am and say what I'm all about. I just look at it as it's the one gift I can give one woman one day and it's almost like the ultimate sacrifice. I look forward to being able to look my wife in the eyes on our wedding day and say, 'This is what I waited for. I waited for you. Not only to be with you for the rest of my life, but to share this gift with you."'

Two weeks after the show aired, Hoag was invited to work out with the Jaguars during minicamp. He jumped at the opportunity and then got another call last week asking if he could return following injuries to Porter and Williams.

Now, he's trying to avoid getting cut - again.

"My foot's in the door," he said. "But I know the game. I've been looked at in the eye by a coach and told, 'You've done everything we've asked of you. You deserve a spot on the team. You earned a spot. We just can't keep you."'

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