CHARLOTTE – Coming out of high school, first-year Panthers wide receiver Chris Hogan chose lacrosse over football before eventually migrating back.
This weekend, for a few hours at least, Hogan will again choose lacrosse over football – to the benefit of his alma mater.
Hogan, a four-year letterman for Penn State lacrosse, will attend the Nittany Lions' national semifinal appearance Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles. Among the tens of thousands planning to attend will be 100 Penn State students there courtesy of Hogan and his wife, Ashley.
"I talked to some of the people over there in the athletic department and told them I was going to be there and from there we came up with this idea for giving back to the Penn State students," Hogan said. "This is a big deal for Penn State lacrosse and Penn State in general – the first time in the final four, the first time we've been winning in the tournament, really. My wife and I just thought it was a cool idea."
Hogan, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots who signed with the Panthers for his ninth NFL season, famously was a lacrosse standout at Penn State for four seasons, leading the team with 29 goals as a junior in 2009 and adding 15 more goals as a senior.
He was a two-sport standout in high school that opted to focus on lacrosse, but he gave football another shot as a fifth-year graduate student at Monmouth.
"I played corner. Wasn't really a receiver in college; just a red zone, third-down guy," said Hogan, who caught just 12 passes in his one year of college football but caught NFL scouts' eyes when he took advantage of an invitation to Fordham University's pro day. "I totally blew it out of the water when I knew I had to put up good numbers. I was fortunate that all 32 teams were there, and when those guys aren't expecting to see someone and all of a sudden there's some kid with eye-catching numbers, they do their due diligence."
The rest, as they say, is history, but over Memorial Day weekend Hogan will return to his lacrosse roots and hope Penn State can make some lacrosse history. The Nittany Lions had never won an NCAA Tournament game in four chances before this season, when they earned the No. 1 seed and then won two tournament games to advance to the semifinals.
On Saturday they'll face Yale, the one team to beat Penn State during its storybook season.
"For me if I was playing in that game, I'm hyped just because of that," Hogan said. "There's a little bit more on the line yeah, but just go out there and have fun and keep doing what they've been doing all year."
Hogan said he'll spend some time on the sidelines before Saturday's game (2:30 p.m., ESPN2) but then he and his wife will watch from the stands with friends. He doesn't plan to attend Monday if Penn State advances to the national title game because the Panthers' organized team activities resume Tuesday, but also because he wants to maximize his family time with his wife and 2-year-old twins still living in New York.
But lacrosse will be a part of his family time – this weekend and beyond.
"I live in Long Island and I'm surrounded by it," said Hogan, whose is still known to get out his lacrosse stick. "My neighbors to the right of me, to the left of me, they have kids that play lacrosse. And once my kids get older, I'll have the net set up and everything."
View photos of players on the practice field for the third day of organized team activities.