- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 8, 2009

Marques Hagans was an undersized but dynamic high school quarterback when he made his recruiting visit to Indiana University. Hagans’ weekend host was so convincing that he soon agreed to play for the Hoosiers.

However, the Newport News, Va., native fell short academically. He went to prep school for a year and then opted to stay close to home by attending Virginia. There he earned the nickname “Little Slash” for his similarity to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback/receiver/return man Kordell Stewart.

Hagans, who mostly played quarterback for the Cavaliers, is trying to make the Washington Redskins’ roster as a receiver after playing for the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. One of the players ahead of the 26-year-old on the depth chart is the player who was his weekend host at Indiana a decade earlier: Antwaan Randle El.

“Our relationship is more about life than football,” Randle El said. “But we’ve talked about making the transition from quarterback to receiver. I told Marques that he had the ability to make the switch, but he had to focus his mind that he was no longer a quarterback. I decided that in January the year I got drafted, but I wasn’t truly comfortable at receiver until my third year in the league.”

The difference is that Randle El had caught 127 passes and made an impact as a return man by then. Hagans, whom St. Louis took in the fifth round in 2006, has just nine career catches as he participates in his fourth training camp.

“I’d be lying if I said I’ve completely forgot about being a quarterback,” Hagans said. “But I know my role in the NFL is at receiver. My mentality is that of a receiver. The only thing I lack is [enough] regular-season game reps.”

Hagans was stuck behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce in St. Louis but also couldn’t beat out Dane Looker or return specialist Dante Hall. And he couldn’t surmount the equally forgettable Mark Bradley, Devard Darling or Jeff Webb with the Chiefs.

However, veteran James Thrash’s release in June opened a job with the Redskins. Hagans, who spent the final three weeks of 2008 on Washington’s practice squad, had the most experience in coach Jim Zorn’s scheme until former Seattle Seahawks No. 3 receiver D.J. Hackett signed Wednesday.

“They had Antwaan and Santana [Moss], so I knew they gave shorter receivers an opportunity,” Hagans said. “When you get caught looking at numbers, you take away from your focus. I just focus on my assignments and how I can get better. I’m still working on route running, getting in and out of breaks, being consistent with my depth on every route.”

Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon agreed that Hagans has to work on his routes, but he said Hagans is “really lighting things up, catching balls, showing speed.” Quarterback Jason Campbell said he loves watching Hagans with the ball in his hands.

“He caught a short, little pass - and the next thing you know it’s like a 35-yard, 40-yard gain,” Campbell said. “He definitely has a great sense of change of directions.”

That’s appropriate for a player who has changed positions.

“He’s showing up, isn’t he?” Zorn said after Hagans made a superb catch on the third day of camp. “He really does a nice job running with the ball after the catch. And he’s quick. He’s got a really good, quick move.”

But Thursday, Zorn heatedly challenged Hagans after he didn’t run his route at full speed. Hagans said the coach was right to get on him.

Such is life on the NFL bubble.

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