CHARLOTTE – Chris Hogan didn’t really know what to expect entering unrestricted free agency for the first time.
The 31-year-old wide receiver certainly didn’t expect to wait till mid-April before putting pen to paper.
“We didn’t think it was going to last as long as it did,” Hogan told reporters after signing a one-year deal with the Panthers on Friday.
Hogan has won two Supers Bowls and played in three as a steady contributor for the New England Patriots. But he still sees himself as the underdog – the undrafted free agent who was a lacrosse player at Penn State before playing one season of college football at Monmouth.
“I’ve always been a guy with a chip on his shoulder,” Hogan said. “I was undrafted and played only a year of (college) football, so I’ve carried that with me throughout my career. My time in New England was great, but this is a new opportunity to prove myself again as a player. I’m really excited about that.”
What's his role?
Hogan, at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, has the ability to play outside and in the slot. He has speed to stretch defenses and he prides himself on his sharp route-running. He obviously has a ton of big game experience.
As for his exact role in Carolina, that remains to be seen.
“I don’t think really getting into defining a role at this moment when I haven’t even gotten a playbook in front of me or anything like that yet,” Hogan said. “My main focus is just to come down here and work as hard as I can. A new team. A new organization. Another chance for me to prove myself and prove to these guys that I can be a valuable part to this team and help them win football games any way I can.
“I think I’ll fit right in.”
From Brady to Newton
Hogan has fond memories of catching passes from Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. His two Super Bowl rings are a pretty clear indicator of what it was like to play with Brady.
Now he’s transitioning to Cam Newton’s huddle. The two quarterbacks clearly have different skill sets, but they share one particular trait in common.
“Tom was great. He demanded a lot and was an ultimate competitor,” Hogan said. “From what I hear and just from watching Cam play, he’s the ultimate competitor as well. Really excited about the opportunity to play with him.
“He demands a certain amount of excellence here. Everyone says he works hard and wants to win. That’s all you can ask for from your quarterback.”
We’ll all wait anxiously to see what nickname Cam has in store for his new target.
Speaking of nicknames, Hogan has a pretty good one from his time with the Miami Dolphins in 2012. Hogan was trying to get his foot in the door of the NFL when he raised some eyebrows during training camp with the Miami Dolphins, who were being featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
Running back Reggie Bush gave Hogan the nickname “7-Eleven” because he’s always open. It stuck.
“If it sticks with me, I guess I’m doing my job right,” Hogan said. “Hopefully that continues to be my nickname.”
The Olsen connection
Hogan will soon begin getting acquainted with a locker room full of new faces, but there’s a familiar one in Greg Olsen.
Hogan knows the Olsen family from high school football in northern New Jersey. Hogan starred at Ramapo, the rival school of Wayne Hills, which is where Olsen became a high school All-American and where Olsen’s dad was the head coach.
"He was a stud player in high school," Greg Olsen said. "Remember him playing against my dad's teams. They were our bitter rival. Every year it seemed one of our two schools were state champ."
“I grew up watching (Greg) because he was a little bit older than me. Played against his dad though for four years. Those were good games,” Hogan said. “I’ll reach out to Greg. It’s pretty cool to have him down here. He’s always been super nice.”
View photos of Carolina's new wide receiver as he puts pen to paper on a one-year deal.