The Quiet Brilliance of Kevin Hogan

By: Ben Leonard

STANFORD, Calif. —
Right after winning one of the biggest games of his life, the ever even-keeled Kevin Hogan didn’t let the moment get to him. The sea of Stanford students had made the field a sea of Cardinal, but it didn’t even seem to let his emotions affect him after his last game at Stanford Stadium. When his head coach David Shaw spoke with him after the emotionally charged instant classic, Hogan smiled and said “we got to play USC next week.”

This unflappable, level-headed nature is what has lead Hogan to such overwhelming success that tends to gets overlooked. Hogan only had to play in the shadow of a living legend, former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Despite having drawn the ire of Stanford fans last season, Hogan has proven capable of the tall task of replacing Luck — his 34 career wins are the most in Stanford history and in the country. 

Even on Senior Night, despite what the modest Hogan might have said, it never felt like the stage was too big for the Virginian. When asked about how emotional the victory was, Hogan replied: “It was very emotional. I just tried to take it all in and enjoy it. I knew it was going to be that way.”

Playing against his now-deceased father’s alma mater and childhood team with a trip to the playoff on the line? Seemed like just another day at the office for Hogan, who threw for 269 yards and four touchdowns on an efficient 17 for 21 passing.

His head coach on what made him so successful on Saturday: “He’s such a great football player, that knew he had to keep his emotions in check. His father passed away as a Notre Dame grad and was always fired up for the Notre Dame games. A lot of his family went to Notre Dame. So Kevin did a great job of keeping all that at bay and just playing football.”

Clearly, Hogan has had to fight through a lot of adversity while on The Farm, but his ability to perservere in face of such trying times is what has set him apart. He’ll go down as one of the best signal-callers in Stanford history, and he’ll be sorely missed next season in Palo Alto. Shaw said the toughest part about giving Hogan the game ball after the game was knowing that “after all he’s been through, he’s come out so mature and so confident. He’s a great leader, and such a great football player.”

Hogan isn’t one for fanfare or self-promotion. He has taken on Shaw’s stoicism, a trait that has helped him become the man and quarterback that he now is — and it showed on the final drive. Down a point with 25 seconds left on his own 27-yard line, he didn’t even break a sweat, engineering a beautiful last-ditch drive, connecting with fellow senior Devon Cajuste on a strike downfield to set up Conrad Ukropina’s game-winning field goal.

He’s been this way his entire career, through Pac-12 championships, Rose Bowls, and even trips to Eugene. He’s 13-6 in his career against Top-25 teams, won his first ten career games, and became the first-ever Cardinal quarterback with over 1,000 rushing yards.

The list of accolades and accomplishments goes on and on, but it hasn’t seemed to get to Hogan’s head. His quiet brilliance has gotten overlooked throughout the years, in large part due to his stable of star running backs. Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, and that guy Christian McCaffrey, in case you haven’t heard the name before. 

Is he Luck 2.0? No, it’s a tough act to follow — a comparison is unfair to Hogan. He’s no Luck — only Kevin Hogan 1.0, another very tough act for Keller Chryst to follow. But no worry: given Shaw’s experience, he’ll be ready.

For now, as Hogan says, we should just try to take it all in and enjoy it while it lasts.


Cover Image: Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan throws under pressure from Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (44) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Stanford, Calif. Oregon won 38-36. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)