Hagan Focused on Team Success, Not Records

It's a virtual guarantee that by the end of the 2005 season, wide receiver Derek Hagan will collect eight receptions, tally 265 yards and score seven touchdowns to place first in the Sun Devils record books and go down as one of the most prolific receivers to ever play for the maroon and gold. However, when he steps in between the lines his attention is shifted in an unselfish direction.

"I really don't think about the records, because when I'm on the practice field or game field my mind just turns blank," said the 6-2 202 Derek Hagan. "I'm blanking the crowd, blanking everything out…I'm just running around catching balls and do what I need to do to help ASU win some games."

Following a career season in receptions (83), yards (1,248) and touchdowns (10), it's refreshing to hear the senior who's motivation is sky high, and far from resting on his laurels. "Every time I get on the field I need to work on something," Hagan claimed. "One day I'll work on my route running. The next day I'll work on looking at the ball all the way when I go to catch it, or making a defender miss and get more yards. It's always the little things I try to work on in practice."

One not so little matter that Hagan has been busy with is his leadership. Last season he was already considered one of the team leaders, and entering his last season at Arizona State, he looks to take this attribute to a different level. "I think the whole team leadership stepped up a whole lot from last year," he stated. "I learned from leaders on past ASU teams. You sit there, watch what they're doing, and take a little something from each of them and show he guys what they need to do."

The improved leadership can be attributed to the high number of upperclassmen on the field. The veteran stamp is quite evident in Hagan's group, where its top four players are either juniors or seniors. "It's great, because when you're together four or five years, you don't have to tell each other what to do," Hagan explained. "When we see a certain coverage on the field, we still may talk about it but each of us knows what to do. We've gone through the system for so long and we're just waiting to explode.".

The high octane Sun Devil offense will be led by Sam Keller. Even though Keller's actual game experience is limited, his top receiving target has no doubts concerning the signal caller's prospects. "The chemistry between us is going great," he commented. "Not only is it going great between me and Sam, but also with the Sam and the rest of the wide receivers and tight ends. We've been working together for so long. Andrew has taught Sam a lot, and Sam is just trying to bring that to the field and show everyone what he can do. I think Sam will be great, and he has four, five receivers that have a lot of confidence in him."

The line between confidence and cockiness is always a fine one. Hagan says that it's good to have confidence, as long as complacency doesn't set in. "We have a lot of confidence, but we're still a hungry bunch," said Hagan in regards to the receivers group. "Guys are always trying to make plays and help us win – that's our mindset. Every wide receiver on our team knows that no cornerback can cover them one-on-one. That's how we feel. We may come off cocky, but sometimes you have to have that attitude. You need to let people know that you're the best."

In pervious interviews Hagan mentioned how he never gave a second though about forgoing his junior season to enter the NFL draft. With his pro career perhaps just eight or so months away, he admitted the topic has crossed his thoughts. Nonetheless, he will put those feelings aside for the good of the team. "Obviously the NFL is in the back of my mind," he said, "but I need to perform this year and help my team. We want to win some games and get to a BCS game. That's where we want to go. We know we have a great team, we're trying to get better, and last year we made that step and got the team better. Now we need to continue that."

Following up such a stellar senior year does involve some pressure – a notion that Hagan doesn't mind. "I think it's a lot better to have pressure," he said. "That will push you even more, and see how far you can go." Thus, what are Hagan's goals in his last season as a Sun Devil? "Just playing better than last year and improving," he said. "Not necessarily in stats, but just in every category of being a receiver. Catching a ball, catching a touchdown, blocking…just going all out every play. We get graded after practices and games and I want to make sure I'm at 90% or higher. You always have to work hard. That's the only way you'll get better."

Hagan improving – an exciting thought for Sun Devils and a potential nightmare in the making for opposing cornerbacks…

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