Kevin Hogan's Stanford journey comes to fitting end at Rose Bowl
LOS ANGELES – It was during the early days of spring football this past March at Stanford when Cardinal coach David Shaw walked by a fifth-year senior and gave him a good, long look.
"You're old," Shaw told his quarterback, Kevin Hogan. "And he said, 'Coach, I feel old, you know."
Hogan is only 23, so age is in the eye of the beholder. But for a guy who is on the precipice of leading his team to its third Rose Bowl appearance in four years – all of them as the team's starter under center – we might substitute the word "experienced" for "old."
Very few players in college football have seen and done as much as Hogan has since first stepping onto the field in 2012, and it will culminate this Friday when he becomes just the third quarterback to start in three Rose Bowl games. It's a career that has included a litany of individual honors and records, but Shaw will tell you that it's Hogan's character that will be his legacy long after Friday's game.
[Related video: Stanford teammates talk about the leadership of Kevin Hogan]
"He's gained perspective and he's gained wisdom," Shaw says. "That leadership has shown up every time that we've needed it throughout the year."
This season, Shaw points to two specific games where he carried the team back from early deficits, for without his leadership in games at USC and Washington State, Stanford might not have celebrated its third Pac-12 title of Hogan's tenure.
That's a theme that has carried since Hogan stepped in to lead Stanford's 2012 48-0 victory over Colorado in relief and threw a pair of touchdown passes. Shaw didn't name him the starter outright that day – he coyly told reporters that you'd see "a lot of Kevin Hogan" in coming weeks – but the writing was on the wall for a guy who would go on to lead the Cardinal to its first conference title since 1999 and the school's first Rose Bowl victory since 1971.
It's not as if he was stepping into the large shoes vacated by Andrew Luck or anything.
"You can never assume that you're going to have success or as much success as we've had at Stanford," Hogan said Tuesday at Rose Bowl Media Day. "And it just shows the hard work that we've put in, countless hours and fight that this team has.
"I'm excited that as a senior we're able to get back to the Rose Bowl. This game means so much."
To say that Hogan's tenure on The Farm has seen incredible highs and tremendous adversity would be an understatement. He finished up that 2012 season with a Rose Bowl win and led the Cardinal back to Pasadena the next season, where they fell to Michigan State. His 2014 was marked with struggles on the field, but more notably, the most difficult off-the-field adversity imaginable.
Hogan's father passed away last December on the night of the team's annual banquet. After spending time with his family, he came back to help the Cardinal soundly defeat Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl, a game in which Hogan, according to teammate Graham Shuler in the San Jose Mercury News, had a "clarity of purpose."
"There's so many things that he instilled in me," Hogan says. "The values, the voice, and how he carried himself as a person, and always so humble and interested in other people. That's something I've really kind of tried to be like myself.
"It was reassuring knowing that I was doing the right thing, just knowing that's what he wanted, and he was battling something much greater than what I was."
You know the story since then. He passed up a shot at the NFL Draft, came back to Stanford and helped guide the Cardinal back to the Pac-12 championship and, once again, the Rose Bowl, where his career will come to a befitting conclusion on New Year's Day.
[Related video: Kevin Hogan explains how his No. 8 jersey honors his father]
He'll be part of a farewell to a senior class that has not only registered so much success on the field, but also one that continues to put up incredible academic achievements. Stanford's football program once again put up a 99 in the NCAA's latest graduation success rate, the best among any FBS or FCS school.
Shaw has been effusive in his praise of this specific class, saying repeatedly that they've rounded into a group of young men prepared to lead both on and away from the field.
"The guys will respond to their peers, and to have this group of guys to be so accomplished but then also love to practice and teach guys how to practice and prepare," he says. "That kind of energy and that kind of effort every day in practice helps set the tone for who you are as a football team."
The next chapter of Hogan's life awaits once the clock hits zero on Friday, but Hogan and his team have one more mission: beat Iowa, claim another Rose Bowl title and bring the roses back to Northern California.
"We've been here a couple of times before, but I still have that same mindest of almost being a little kid on Christmas morning," Hogan says. "I feel like I'm confident and in a good relaxed feeling."