Though he was originally a walk-on at Oregon State, Mike Hass left the Beavers as the first PAC-10 receiver ever to have three 1,000-yard seasons
(The 2006 NFL Draft is scheduled to take place on the weekend of April 29-30, during which nearly 300 college standouts will enter into the professional ranks. During the months of March and April, Buccaneers.com will run a series of features on these NFL hopefuls, taking a closer look at some of the names you'll be hearing on draft weekend. There is no correlation between the players chosen for these features and the Buccaneers' draft plans, and any mentions of draft status or scouting reports are from outside sources. Our next feature: Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass.)
Mike Hass thinks he could be the next great Buc-killer.
Now, that shouldn't be a deterrent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on draft weekend, if they happen to be interested; Hass hasn't really described himself in those terms. It's just that he happens to believe he could do a fair Ricky Proehl impression.
Hass, a former walk-on at Oregon State who turned into one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history, isn't pigeonholing himself with that reference, either. Considering that Proehl's NFL resume includes 242 games played, 8,848 receiving yards, 54 touchdowns, three Super Bowl appearances and one Ring with a capital R, he is a fitting role model for any player about to enter the league.
Some might think of Proehl as a possession receiver who has stood the test of time, but there really is only one word that adequately describes his career: Production. The same is true of Hass, who is the first receiver in PAC-10 history to record three 1,000-yard seasons.
Buccaneer fans, however, have other ways of describing Proehl, who has turned into a Tampa Bay nemesis in the latter stages of his career. It began on January 23, 2000, when Proehl's 30-yard, fourth-quarter, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch for the St. Louis Rams denied the Bucs their first Super Bowl bid. Proehl then moved into Tampa Bay's division as a member of the Carolina Panthers in 2003 and has since tacked on a series of big plays against the Buccaneers. Last year, Proehl caught a game-changing 62-yard pass in Carolina's win in Tampa then added a 10-yard touchdown in the Bucs' victory at Carolina. If Proehl were to retire before next season, he would end his career with a receptions total that seems fitting to Buccaneer fans: 666. No kidding.
Back in 1990, Proehl lasted into the early part of the third round before being drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals, which is coincidentally around where Hass has been projected in this year's draft. Hass stands nearly 6-1 and weighed 208 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine while Proehl was listed as 5-10 and 181 coming into the league. Proehl ran a 4.5-second 40-yard-dash before the draft; after working with a speed trainer in Orlando, Hass ran in the 4.58-4.61 range at the Combine.
And both have reputations for outstanding hands. Obviously, you're not dropping many passes when your three-year college numbers include 220 catches for 3,924 yards. That includes 90 receptions for 1,532 yards in 2005; both are Oregon State single-season standards and the latter is also an all-time PAC-10 record.
"I can catch the ball anywhere on the field," said Hass at the Combine. "I think I'm a good route-runner and a reliable target. That's something every team likes to see, a guy who when you throw the ball his way he'll be open and catch it."
Hass just wants an opportunity to prove he can be that guy on the next level, just as he has had to do several times over the last four years. Despite being named high school player of the year in Oregon as a prep, he was not heavily recruited. In fact, no Division I schools gave him an offer. Wishing to stay in-state and prove he was fit for D-I competition, Hass chose to attend Oregon State and attempt to walk on with the Beavers. He made the team as a freshman but was relegated to special teams duty. Had James Newson – Oregon State's former career receiving leader – not gotten hurt just before the 2003 season, Hass might have had to wait longer for his chance to prove himself.
But, with Newson out, Hass drew the start in the '03 season opener against Sacramento State and caught six passes for 129 yards. The rest is triple-digit history; he averaged over 100 yards per game the rest of his career.
"Whenever people doubt you and say you can't do anything, you want to prove those people wrong," said Hass. "You just want to go on the field and do that, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do that."
Hass said he just "fell through the cracks" during recruitment, but it's more likely that he wasn't thought to possess the classic size-speed combination of a big-time receiver. He proved that assessment either wrong or irrelevant – in the end, it doesn't matter which – by averaging nearly 18 yards per reception during his OSU career.
"It was a lot of hard work and a lot of determination," said Hass of the grip he put on the job after Newson's injury. Last fall, he had at least 140 receiving yards in eight of his 11 games en route to winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award.
"It's just one of those things where you keep working. You've got to get an opportunity, too. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity in fall camp, and I just made the most of them and showed what I can do."
Hass wasn't invited to the Senior Bowl but once again he made the most of the opportunity that was presented to him instead. He went to the East-West Shrine Game and caught four passes for 107 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.
Now he finds himself at the Combine, surrounded by the best NFL Draft prospects in the country. Four years after no D-I school thought he was worth pursuing, Hass is preparing to continue playing his game in the NFL. Perhaps because he has long been convinced that he had the talent to get to this level, he doesn't seem overwhelmed by the situation.
"I wouldn't say [I'm] surprised," said Hass. "I would say a lot of people are surprised. I always knew I was a good player, I just had to go and prove it."
And how will he prove it again as he takes on the elite competition in the NFL? It won't be by reinventing his game.
"It's going to be me doing the same things I've done," said Hass. "And getting better, too. Improving in every aspect, and going out there and having a good workout here at the Combine."
And maybe 15 years from now, as another undervalued receiver tries to prove himself to the NFL scouts, he'll be comparing himself to Mike Hass. Maybe Hass really will be the next Ricky Proehl. Wouldn't bother him a bit.
"He was a guy who had a very successful career," said Hass, "and I hope to have that."