Undrafted to Starter

Phil Bogle has quietly become another gem unearthed by the San Diego Chargers scouting department. As an undrafted free agent out of New Haven, Bogle has already started on the offensive line at right tackle, playing ahead of Courtney Van Buren, the Bolts third round pick out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Now the talk appears to be that Phil Bogle will start the rest of the year at right offensive guard.

"I think it is my spot to lose."

Bogle has always had the talent. He was originally an Orangeman of Syracuse. That is before a transcript error cost him his chance to play Division I-A football. At that point, Bogle could have folded with his dreams crushed. Instead his fortitude became stronger and with help from those around him, his determination never waned.

"In a way, just one part of my goals to get to a big school and play Division I football. That was my first goal out of high school. Which is every high school kid's dream to come out and play on the big screen. I was sort of crushed, but I didn't lose focus.

"My dad and my family, they stood behind me no matter what, in Syracuse or New Haven, it didn't matter."

When he originally went to Syracuse he was tabbed for the defensive line. Does he still dream of sacking quarterbacks?

"Nah, definitely not. Down in the trenches, there is no such thing as easy on your body. Offense or defense it is like 60 plays a game. You are feeling that impact every down.

"(Playing on the offensive line) is what got me here. We don't get the individual credit that these guys may get on defense. I just enjoy playing with a group of guys; we work together and just dominate another group of guys."

Growing up in Spring Valley, New York, Bogle was a New York Giants fan. One of the greatest moments of his young career was going to work out for them.

"I grew up in New York my whole life. It was actually kind of exciting to be there. I have seen games before and been to the facility for that. It was the first time I was actually there for personal reasons and for me to be a part of that was really an exciting deal."

In the end, it was nothing compared to joining the San Diego Chargers and starting his first game.

Before he got there, Bogle has to step on a meat scale to be weighed during his Pro day workout session. It is hard to do anything but laugh considering he tipped the scales, literally.

"It was kind of funny when we got to the scale, I didn't know if it would go around again and then you could basically add up the rest, but it cranked out on me."

Despite impressive credentials, Bogle did not get drafted. During the Cactus Bowl, an all-star game for Division II seniors, Bogle won the Jim Langer Award for most outstanding offensive lineman in the game. In the 10 years of the award, Bogle became the first player from the East Coast or the Northeast to take home the hardware.

"I was a little surprised to be honest with you that he didn't get drafted," said New Haven Offensive Line Coach Bill Iannone. "But in a way I think it was better for him. I spoke with Coach Houck on the phone probably a month before the draft and actually right before he worked him out, out here. He came out to New Jersey to work him out. I am glad he ended up there because I know Hudson is one of the best in the league.

"The way the draft works with who needs what and if they think they can get somebody unsigned. I was surprised really with the Chargers because I thought they really liked him. I thought they would take him even if it was later rather than risk losing him in free agency."

"We had, probably, in the fall at least 20 scouts came through here and watched tape on him and watched practice and spoke with the Head Coach, myself, and the trainer."

Coach Ianonne went on to if there was an area Bogle had to improve upon it would be run blocking.

"Yeah, I feel my pass protection coming in was one of my big assets that I had coming into the league. Coming from New Haven, we didn't really runt he ball a lot. So I couldn't really get that work in. Definitely, I could improve my run blocking."

In training camp in Carson Coach Houck gave Bogle and Courtney VanBuren extra attention as both stayed after practice with regularity. They worked out together in the middle of the field with Houck giving his pointers to them. It seemed they were destined to make the team after receiving the special attention and wanting to get better.

Still the final day comes and you just never know. Did you ever think you would get cut on that final day?

"I don't think there is such a thing as an indication that you might not get cut," Bogle says laughing. "It is always a possibility. Honestly what me and Courtney did – we were friends during the offseason program and we got a little closer during camp and roommates and we were going to push ourselves to get better and we are going to stick together and we would get through it together. We did that and it worked out. Stayed after most of the practices with Coach Houck to get that work in.

"Coach Houck always told us that if we just maximize our ability, because we are both good athletes, maximize our abilities and get the technique down, there will be no stopping us."

Now Bogle has started in the NFL and has a regular spot along the line. He is playing ahead of Van Buren, a player who was drafted in he third round. The question now is: has it put a strain on their relationship?

"No, I don't think it has put a strain on us friendship wise. We are still good friends – we are still great friends. It didn't really matter what it was, I kind of picked up on the offense a little faster than he did. I kind of understood what was going on a little easier.

"Once Courtney gets everything down and gets real comfortable, he will be back up there. There is no doubt about that."

Bogle is already up there. He will be the starting right guard in Cleveland and if all goes well as he expects, he will start between Solomon Page and Jason Ball for the rest of the season. Injuries may have helped him get there, but akin to a quarterback taking advantage of an opportunity, he is not willing to let it go. Call it focus from his previous trials that sent him from Syracuse to New Haven. Any way you look at it, he is set on getting better and anchoring the line for years to come.

Part II of our interview with Phil Bogle will appear tomorrow, as he talks about the bye week, his previous play and the upcoming game against Cleveland.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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