Posted on Sat, May. 27, 2006
Former Gophers receiver Aaron Hosack is taking a different path toward his dream of playing in the NFL. He is a star on a team playing in NFL Europe's biggest game, and he wants to use what he's learned to make the Vikings' roster.
BY DON SEEHOLZER
In this country, young boys grow up dreaming about playing in the Super Bowl, not the World Bowl, but Aaron Hosack isn't complaining.
6-5 ? You got to like that. Beef him up and put at TE? THoughts?
The Vikings' globetrotting wide receiver, whose Frankfurt Galaxy face the Amsterdam Admirals today in World Bowl XIV, has enjoyed every minute of his NFL Europe vacation.
"It's been fun so far," Hosack said this week from DÃƒÂ¼sseldorf, Germany, site of the title game. "This is the path that I've chosen to take in this dream I'm chasing right now. This is where I've come, and I've made the most of my opportunities, so it's really good to be here."
This has been a good spring for Hosack, a former University of Minnesota wide receiver, who caught 36 passes during the 10-game regular season for 473 yards and four touchdowns.
Those first two figures were good enough to rank third in the league and garner All-NFL Europe honors for Hosack, who might have boosted his NFL stock in the process.
"I would like to think that I have," he said. "I came here last year and only played in four games and then got injured. I wanted to come back and show everybody I could bounce back from an injury. I feel like I've put 10 pretty good games together. I've learned a lot to apply to the NFL when I get back to a team in training camp, which as of right now is the Minnesota Vikings."
A right shoulder injury forced Hosack to spend all of last season on the Vikings' reserve/non-football injury list after 13 weeks on the practice squad in 2004.
Cleared to play in January, he has proved himself in NFL Europe, but he's not sure where he fits in with the Vikings, who have a new coach in Brad Childress and a veteran receiving corps led by Koren Robinson, Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor.
"I haven't paid much attention to who they've been signing or anything like that," Hosack said. "I don't know too much about coach Childress' offense other than it's a West Coast style of offense. If I'm one of the pieces he wants to fit into that, it would be great. If not, hopefully some other teams will want to take a try on me."
Frankfurt coach Mike Jones was an NFL wide receiver from 1983-85 with the Vikings and for three seasons (1986-87, 1989) with New Orleans. He said Hosack has the right stuff to follow in the footsteps of former NFL Europe receivers such as Kansas City's Dante Hall, Atlanta's Brian Finneran and the Vikings' Marcus Robinson, the 1998 NFL Europe offensive most valuable player for the World Bowl-champion Rhein Fire.
"He definitely can," Jones said. "He has the size (6-5, 210 pounds) you want in a guy at that position, and I think the biggest asset in his game is his hands. He catches the ball as well as any receiver I've had in this league. He's a guy who can run the intermediate routes and get deep, too."
Even so, at 24, the clock is ticking for Hosack, who hasn't set any personal deadlines but knows he won't have too many more opportunities to make an NFL roster.
"I'm a realist," he said. "I'm not going to be one of those guys who's 28 years old still trying to chase a dream and get on an active roster. I'm passionate about football, but you've got to get on with life pretty soon."
Hosack wasn't the only Vikings player to spend his spring in Europe. Offensive tackle Sean Bubin started all 10 games for the Hamburg Sea Devils, and cornerback Ronyell Whitaker had a stellar season for Rhein, tying for second in the league with four interceptions and returning two for touchdowns.
"He's probably the best cornerback in this league, I would say," Hosack said of Whitaker, his fellow All-NFL Europe selection. "We played them twice, and we were cautious about throwing his way because we knew what he could do. I like that guy a lot. I didn't meet him until we got over here, and I have a lot of respect for that kid."
Generally speaking, Hosack said he has been impressed with the caliber of talent in NFL Europe, which is filled with young, borderline players like himself who are trying to take their games to the next level.
"Once I leave here after the World Bowl, I'll go back to Minnesota and get my physicals," he said. "It's up to the coaches whether they want to keep me there to practice or anything like that. I'm just eager to get there and show the coaches I'm ready to hit the ground running."
Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]