In 2012, the Dolphins closed the door on the guy who was always open.
Now he’s at the pinnacle of American professional sports, and Chris Hogan -- the receiver nicknamed 7-Eleven during his short stint with the Dolphins -- could probably buy his own convenience store.
At the very least, Hogan won’t have to pay for his own Slurpee in greater Boston for a while. Not after catching nine passes for 180 yards (both career highs) to help send the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
Hogan lived up to his alias two weeks ago. He truly was always open in New England’s AFC Championship Game victory against the Steelers.
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Not bad for a guy who four years ago couldn’t make a Dolphins roster that was so bereft of wide receiver talent, Miami scoured the waiver wire deep into the season to find contributors.
Granted, the Patriots making treasure out of Dolphins trash is nothing new (see: Rob Ninkovich and Wes Welker, to name a few).
But this one might sting the fan base even more, because HBO and NFL Films created a cult following for Hogan.
The league picked the Dolphins to star in its reality TV show, Hard Knocks, in 2012, so Hogan’s pro career took off in a fishbowl. We only know Reggie Bush came up with the 7-Eleven nickname because cameras caught him doing so.
“It was short-lived,” Hogan said this week, when asked about his Hard Knocks year. “It was a lot of fun though. That was my first exposure, really, to the NFL. It was fun for me to be on that show, to get that nickname, and I think it kind of helped my career along the way, even after I got cut. I kind of had been put out there.”
Alas, a catchy name and a few good catches weren’t enough for the Dolphins to take a shot on the converted lacrosse star. Hogan only played one year of collegiate football, and the Dolphins decided he was too raw even to stash him on their practice squad.
They were wrong -- both in the short and long terms. Legedu Naanee, the receiver Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland kept over Hogan that year, caught all of one pass in aqua and orange -- which he fumbled. The Dolphins cut him shortly thereafter.
“You never expect anything in the NFL, especially where I was, an undrafted guy trying to make it,” Hogan said. “I wasn't really expecting much. It wasn't like I thought I was going to be a starting receiver at that point in my career. I thought I had a good enough camp where I thought I was going to be part of the practice squad, but it's just the way the NFL is.”
Hogan didn’t stay unemployed for long. The Bills picked him up later in the season, signing him first to their practice squad, and then their active roster.
Two years later, he caught 41 passes and four touchdowns.
But that was just prelude to Hogan’s 2016, when his 17.9 yards per catch average ranked second in the NFL.
And now, Hogan -- cut four times in the first 14 months of his career -- is a critical cog in the Patriots machine.
“Chris has worked his tail off,” said Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. “He has come in here and he has been a good leader, a great guy to have in the locker room. He works extremely hard. He is more talented than what people are giving him. He is so fast. Anytime you go in and put in the work that he has, results are going to be seen and that is what we are seeing.”
Said Hogan: “There were a lot of bumps in the road. It wasn't always easy. Playing in this league is not easy. It's tough to do. It demands a lot and you have to make sacrifices to get to where you want.
He added: “For me, it was just taking those experiences -- like getting cut by a team, that was a new experience for me, an eye-opening experience. Those type of things just made me a better football player, a better person. I just wanted to work twice as hard every single time I got cut or any time somebody told me I couldn't do it. But I never questioned myself, never questioned my ability. I knew I could play in this league. It's just a matter of getting an opportunity.”