|Photo by Tom Dahlin|
In 1999, Ryan Hoag, then a freshman at Wake Forest, overslept and missed soccer practice, effectively ending his soccer career. Instead of playing soccer elsewhere, he returned to his native Minnesota, enrolled at Gustavus Adolphus, and proceeded to learn the game of football, which he hadn't played since junior varsity in high school.
The only Division III player invited to the NFL's scouting combine, he posted a 40 time of 4.51 seconds and impressed enough to convince the Raiders to take him with the last pick in the draft, making him 2003's Mr. Irrelevant. Pat Coleman caught up with him by phone Sunday evening.
D3: When you overslept and missed your soccer practice
at Wake Forest, did you envision your college career ending up like
RH: Maybe the ‘irrelevant' part in terms of sports, but not the ‘Mr. Irrelevant' part. Obviously, a person always has dreams, but with football I never expected to take it to this level.
D3: When did you first hear about the significance of
RH: Our running back, Andy Traetow, actually told me about it. ‘Hopefully you're Mr. Irrelevant.' He was telling me about the perks I'd never heard about. It piqued my interest. Even though I've talked to 10 people trying to tell me, I still don"t know what it entails. I"m just blessed to get drafted.
D3: You probably didn't have any serious thoughts about
going in Day 1 of the draft, but they certainly strung you out in
RH: Absolutely. I had to be realistic. Once upon a time I had heard I could slip into the late third round, but this whole past week I heard from 15 teams and it looked like I would be a late second-day guy. I never figured to be the last pick in the draft. With all the calls I was receiving I figured I wasn't going to be drafted at all.
D3: How many teams did you talk to on Sunday?
RH: I was told by the Cowboys in the sixth round that they were looking at drafting me, and then I heard from the Packers, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Houston. I was offered a contract if I slipped through from Dallas, San Francisco and Houston.
D3: When did you hear from the Raiders?
RH: About 10 seconds before they said it on TV. I got a call from a woman from the Raiders and I just figured it was another free agent offer, but she said, ‘Can you hold, I"m going to transfer you to Coach (Bill) Callahan's phone.' I ended up hanging up on him accidentally because we were so excited.
D3: What do you know about the Raiders and your chances
RH: I know they drafted one receiver, that was a position they were going to be looking at. I feel that's one of the best sits for me. I'm not expecting to go in and compete for a starting position. It'll be an honor to be in camp with my hero, Jerry Rice, a small-school guy. His workout in general has always been what's impressive to me. I know they drafted Teyo Johnson, who"s kind of an H-back, big-type receiver. I think I can help in the return game immediately and bring some speed they might not have so much of.
D3: Do you feel like you're carrying the weight of
Division III on your shoulders, or can you let guys like Bills
linebacker London Fletcher do that for you?
RH: The only weight I'm carrying on my shoulders is the expectation I'm having for myself and that's probably more than anyone else has for me. I'm planning on meeting and exceeding my expectations. I'd love to represent Division III, so in that sense it's an honor, and I have every intent of putting Division III on the map.