Stanford knew that with the departure of quarterback Andrew Luck, they’d be facing a tough road ahead of them. However, with the unlikely emergence of Irish American quarterback Kevin Hogan, the Cardinals are on their way to their first Rose Bowl appearance in thirteen years.
Hogan has great football pedigree and Notre Dame roots. Indeed,Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly apparently looked him over at one point after he was a star quarterback in high school in Washington D.C. where he led Gonzaga. The 6 foot 4 inches standout whose people are from West Kerry was ranked 15 among high school quarterbacks in the country by Rivals.com
His grandfather James M. O'Brien played football at Navy and uncles Coley O'Brien and Ivan Brown played football at Notre Dame. His cousin Sean O'Brien played football at Arizona. He has an older brother, Brian and older sister, Kelly, He was born in McLean,Virginia.
Writing for Sports Illustrated, Stewart Mandel tracked Hogan’s impressive rise with the Cardinal at Stanford. The Cardinal, the Pac-10 champs for the year, will face off against Big Ten champion Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 1st.
Hogan, who was Hamilton’s top recruit coming into Stanford, made a slow start with the Cardinals. Hamilton knew Hogan was a “raw” player and with the right amount of attention, he could turn into a strong player. Hogan’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed and the red shirt freshman now has had his big break. He started the season as the No. 3 ranked but soon rose to the top.
"In training camp, Kevin showed us his abilities and his skills, and the bigger the [playbook] installation got, to be honest, he also showed us that he wasn't quite ready," said Shaw. "But he got us excited. He wasn't quite ready for the first quarter of the season."
Indeed, Hogan had only thrown one pass in eight games when he came in for the third series of the Cardinal's Nov. 3 game at Colorado. As a freshman, he redshirted.
"There was still some uncertainty [with Hogan]," said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton. "You didn't know if he could handle a progression read. You didn't know if on third down he had the poise to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate pass. The one thing we knew he could do -- he could run."
Hogan came into the game and led the Cardinal on four straight touchdown drives in an eventual 48-0 win. Hamilton was sold when, on Hogan's second series, the redshirt freshman recognized the Buffs had seven defenders in pass coverage on third-and-nine from the Stanford 36. Hogan looked off his primary receiver and took off running for a 20-yard gain.
"By then, it was a moot point. There was no way we could pull him out," said Shaw. "The energy he gave us as an offense, as well as being proficient with the rest of the game -- he showed us he could do all that. Given his athletic ability, he had to be the starter."
On November 10, Hogan saw his first time starting for the Cardinal against the then-ranked Number 13 Oregon State. He threw a touchdown pass that brought the Cardinal to victory with only 5:07 remaining. Hogan found his hot streak. He played integral roles in the overtime upset of Oregon, and a win over UCLA in pouring rain which gave Hogan the MVP honor for the evening and spot in the Rose Bowl.
Said Hamilton of the pleasant surprise that Hogan turned out to be: “I can't say there was a defining moment in practice or training camp that led us to believe this kid could go out and beat four Top 25 teams, be the MVP of the Pac-12 championship game and lead us to the Rose Bowl. Talent prevailed. He has 'it,' and I define 'it' as instincts and talent. You cannot coach those two attributes."
Hogan started making waves on the field though with impressively quick plays and improvisation, notes Hamilton. "The dynamic we were missing the most was the quarterback's ability to improvise."
Despite Hogan’s impressive contributions to the Cardinal, he remains quiet yet self-assured, much to the dismay of many reporters who would like to pick his brain. When asked if someone had told him in August that he would be starting in the Rose Bowl, he only said "I don't know. That'd be cool?”
And when asked if he felt any nerves prior to the game at the number 1 ranked Oregon, Hogan coolly responded, "No. It's just football."
"He's awesome. He's just cold-blooded," said Cardinal offensive tackle David Yankey. "Nothing fazes him. He's cold-blooded, and I love it."
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," Shaw said of Hogan's emergence. "But he got there a lot faster than I thought he would."