Oct. 2, 2012
By Tim Miguel
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
If that's true, then the New England Patriots should be very flattered. After meeting with the organization this past June, Cal head coach Jeff Tedford plans to instill a similar two-tight end system in his offense like the Patriots currently use.
"I like it a lot," Hagan said. "Seeing what the Patriots do, they use their tight ends well. It excites me because we have a lot of good tight ends. I'm looking forward to it. I like having the two tight ends out there more."
The welcomed change is not the first that Hagan has gone through as a football player. Originally listed as a wide receiver, Hagan put on 35 pounds and made the transition over to tight end.
Like the change in the style of Cal's offense, the move over to tight end was another tweak to his game that Hagan said was tough, but at the same time has been a good fit for him.
"I like the tight end position because it involves the run game," Hagan said. "Knowing the whole offense instead of just the passing game, I like it. It's more complex. It's more detailed, but a lot more fun because it's more inclusive for tight ends."
Moving over to tight end meant working with special teams and tight ends coach Jeff Genyk, who said Hagan's game has improved a lot since he first arrived in Berkeley.
"His strength has improved dramatically," Genyk said. "From a physical perspective, he really has improved himself to be a true Pac-12 tight end. Probably more importantly, Spencer has a great understanding of our offense. He literally can play every wide receiver position, tight end position and he knows exactly what the fullback does. He's extremely diverse. The knowledge really allows him to be a step faster than a lot of kids."
Genyk's tight end last year, Anthony Miller, and Hagan have something in common that very few football players have done. They both scored touchdowns on their first collegiate receptions.
Hagan's came in Cal's lop-sided victory over Presbyterian last season at AT&T Park. Hagan's touchdown reception was a 16-yarder from quarterback Zach Maynard that pushed the Golden Bears' lead up to 35-6. Later during the 2011 season, Hagan scored a more critical touchdown in the Big Game. He tallied a three-yard TD from Maynard early in the fourth quarter to cut the Cardinal lead to seven.
"That touchdown against Presbyterian was awesome," Hagan said. "I caught that one, landed in the dirt and I got a big scar on my arm. It was probably one of the best moments of my life, as well as the touchdown at Stanford. That one felt great. It was more like something we had to do and less of an exciting moment. We were still down, but everything we did helped. That touchdown helped get us back in the game. It was great to score in the Big Game. I'll never forget it."
No doubt seeking more touchdowns in 2012, Hagan said he and Rodgers constantly push each other on the practice field. Like all position battles that happen during training camp and at practice during the regular season, there's also going to be a little bit of a rivalry between teammates. For Hagan and Rodgers, it's a friendly battle that they hope will only lead to each getting better.
"They're very close," Genyk said. "They really spend a lot of time talking smack to each other in a very fun and playful manner. It really keeps the competitive edge going. They're focused on continuous improvement and getting better every day."
If Hagan needs more motivation or inspiration to improve, he can also go to his church. His father, Scott, is a pastor, and Hagan said he frequently goes to his church for guidance and support, just as he does with his football family.
"My church is my rock," Hagan said. "All of my friends, outside of the team, are there. I get encouraged and refreshed. It's a great place with family and love. When I'm down, feeling not well, I can always go to my church and my church family will always be there for me."
There's no doubt Hagan feels the love from his Cal family too.