Mike Hass was never supposed to make an NFL roster--despite being one of the most productive wide receivers in NCAA history. As a walk-on his freshman year at Oregon State, he eventually cracked the starting lineup to amass three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons--breaking numerous school and conference records along the way.
Today the former high school standout, who didn't receive a single Division-I NCAA scholarship offer, is a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears. We spoke to Hass recently about the power of high school football, and what the sport taught him about perseverance and having faith in your own ability.
What do you think it is about high school football that seems to bring a community together?
You said it--it's a community thing. The parents might have gone to that same school and now they're watching kids they know playing football. It seems like there's more passion at the high school level because of that connection. Everybody really gets into it.
What's your fondest memory of playing football at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon?
Winning the state championship with the guys that were there. I'll never forget that.
Any special memories of playing your rival Beaverton High School?
Just beating them. (Laughs) We didn't really lose to them when I was there. They thought they were better than they were but they never beat us.
Despite leading your high school team to the state championship you weren't offered a single D-I college football scholarship after your senior year. What made you keep going?
I just wanted to keep playing. I had a good career in high school. I thought, "Why not give it a shot." If it didn't work out, it didn't work out. But I didn't want look back and think I could've tried but didn't.
How did you make an impression on the coaches at Oregon State that first year to convince them to put you in the starting lineup?
Just doing the right thing. Playing hard. I didn't think, "I'm a special teamer," I thought, "I'm a ballplayer!"
What was the NFL combine like?
It's just a pain really. Very stressful. You have to get up at five in the morning, and they don't let you back in your room until 11 at night. It's a long four days.
Is it true that Reggie Bush put in a good word for you with the Saints--the team that drafted you out of college?
Yeah, I think so. Fellow Pac-10 guy looking out. We knew each other from playing against each other. I met him down at the ESPYs last year when I was up for the Fred Biletnikoff Award (given to the top NCAA receiver each year). He was a good guy and it kind of went from there.
The Saints tried to sneak you onto their practice squad last year. Why did you choose to sign with the Bears instead?
I just didn't really feel like I got a shot with the Saints. I didn't want to stay with a team that wouldn't give me an opportunity to show what I could do.
What do you think is the most important trait in a successful receiver?
Being disciplined in your route running and catching the ball, obviously.
It seems like you've had to prove yourself at every level, whether its scouts criticizing your 40 time or not getting any scholarship offers out of high school. Do you use other people's skepticism of your skills as motivation on the field?
No, it's not my motivation. I don't get my drive from people saying bad things about my ability. People are going to say things all the time, and you just have to let it slide off. I don't play the game for other people. That's when you get yourself in trouble.
Have you learned anything from playing football that you could apply off the field?
Oh sure. There's lots of life lessons. Attention to detail, being focused, learning to be responsible. Being in the right place and doing the right things. If you don't do those things you won't be a successful football player, and if you don't do those things in life you won't be a successful person. A lot of that I learned playing high school football.