NFL beginnings have familiar feel for Hass

TO BEGIN WITH, it's a rather large accomplishment just for a walk-on to earn a scholarship -- the odds are stacked against it. But to go on and become a consensus first team All-American? To hear your name called on Draft Day for the NFL? Hollywood wouldn't buy such a script. Yet Mike Hass accomplished all of these things and more at Oregon State. As he prepares later this week to embark on a career with the New Orleans Saints, Hass reflects on accomplishes past and challenges future.

He isn't one of those guys who will thump his chest and tell you he knew all along he'd be playing in the NFL.

"Not coming out of high school," said Hass (6-1, 209). "Later on in my career, yes, I started to think so. I just tried to make the best of my situation and that's what I did. I love Oregon State. I'll definitely talk to the guys, coaches and stay in touch. I'll always know how they're doing."

Before the draft, the prolific OSU receiver was hearing he'd likely go in the third or fourth round. But it wasn't until the second pick in the sixth round that the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner, bestowed annually on the top wide receiver in college football, heard his name called.

"It's The Draft," said Hass. "You can never tell how those things are going to."

The reasons Hass fell to the penultimate round centered around a supposed lack of speed. It's not like he hasn't heard that one before.

NOBODY OFFERED HASS a scholarship coming out of high school. Despite a senior season at Portland Jesuit High where he caught 79 passes for 1,739 yards and 23 TDs, no one took a chance on the Oregon Player of the Year.

Hass walked on to one of the local schools -- and it was fortuitous for Oregon State that Hass lived in the Beaver state. Hass redshirted that first season and then became a special teams player his freshman season. Dennis Erickson then left for a natural disaster in San Fran and Mike Riley came home. After two years under Erickson, Hass had to start all over with Riley. But fate came calling that fall.

This past season, Mike Hass became only the 10th player in NCAA Division I history to go over the 1,000-yard receiving mark three times in a career. The Oregon State All-America wideout had 220 receptions for 3924 yards over his career. Not bad for a walk-on. Hass was drafted in the sixth round by the New Orleans Saints.

A rash of receiver injuries coupled with a breakout August resulted in Hass earning a scholarship in the '03 fall camp. He has been tearing up opposing secondaries ever since.

Last season, Hass became only the 10th player in NCAA Division I history to go over the 1,000-yard receiving mark three times in a career. Faced with double coverages in 2005, Hass's yardage total set both school and conference marks as he racked up 90 receptions for 1,532 yards and six TDs at Oregon State. He led the nation with an average of 139.3 yards per game receiving.

THE LOCAL MEDIA in Boise still refer to him as the 'Bronco killer'. That tends to happen when you do what Hass did the last two years against Boise State. In '05, it was all hail and snow and Hass as the wideout racked up 178 receiving yards and pulled in the tying score in the fourth quarter. The year before, Hass simply shredded the Bronco defense, with 12 catches for 293 yards and three TDs. But Hass said the one stat stands out from that particular game was the score, a 53-34 Beaver loss.

"I had some good games against Boise State but we were 2-1 against them," he says.

THE FIRST CAREER TOUCHDOWN in 2003 remains his favorite Reser Stadium moment. It was Hass's first start, and he lost a shoe on the 32-yard catch and run against Sacramento State, racing through the red zone in his sock. After that initial six-reception, 129-yard performance, Riley said the Beavs would need to get Hass into the game more. Over the next three seasons in college football, no one was more productive than Hass.

He finished his college career with 220 receptions for 3924 yards for an average of 17.8 yards a catch. Hass compiled the numbers over three seasons -- he did not catch a pass as a freshman.

FOLLOWING A SENIOR SEASON in which he was named All-America and the Biletnikoff Award winner, Hass auditioned for scouts at the NFL combine and OSU's Pro Timing Day, and signed with XAM Sports and Scott Smith.

"I just got along with them -- I thought we were a good fit and it's turned out that way," said Hass. "It's worked out well."

Hass turned in a good combine performance followed by an even better Pro Day in Corvallis. Denver, New England and Seattle stepped up their conversations with Hass and a late first/early second day draft pick looked to be in the cards. But anticipation turned into drudgery as 21 receivers were drafted before the Saints rang. New Orleans was something of a surprise -- Hass hadn't really heard as much from the Saints in the months leading up to the draft as he had others.

"It was an exciting call," said Hass. "They said they were thinking about taking me with the next pick and would you like to play for the Saints. Obviously, of course I said, 'Yes.' "

Saints pro personnel director Mickey Loomis, who snatched up Reggie Bush with the No. 2 pick in the draft, is enamored with speed -- not Hass's strong suit although he did run a 4.56 at Pro Day. But beyond speed, Loomis is even more taken with toughness, football smarts and character.

"He runs the right route, catches the ball when it's thrown to him," said Mueller. "He's tough, he'll block, he'll do the right things. You'll like this kid. One of our scouts was walking in the hallway, and Reggie Bush grabs him and says, 'This is a heck of a pick. I'd like to room with this guy.' "

Oregon State's Mike Hass was named the Biletnikoff Award winner in 2005, annually bestowed upon the nation's top receiver. His yardage total set all-time school and conference marks as he racked up 90 receptions for 1,532 yards and six TDs. Hass led the nation with an average of 139.3 yards per game receiving.

HASS REMAINS AT Oregon State until June, finishing up his degree. He leaves this Friday for the Saints' minicamp, and will get his first look at a city still feeling the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

"They've gone through a lot," said Hass. "I haven't been down to see it but I'll do what I can."

After Hass earns his degree, he'll pack up and make the move to New Orleans. Starting in July at the Saints' fall camp, he'll begin authoring the professional chapters of a football career. The beginning pages of the college and pro tomes will read about the same -- overlooked, not quick enough out of his cuts, not a burner. Also included, however, will be line items such as 'unbelievable hands'.

"Not many people would have guessed I'd be in the position I am right now," said Hass.

That's a phrase the sixth round draft choice just might be repeating a few years down the road.

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