Kevin Hogan didn't have the typical college quarterback experience.
After a redshirt year behind future No. 1 pick Andrew Luck at Stanford, Hogan started all four of his eligible seasons for the Cardinal. He rarely missed a game and ended his collegiate career with as much experience as anyone in the 2016 draft class.
That's what made Sunday's second half feel so natural for Hogan. He's used to playing, especially at the level he showed in a spirited 30 minutes that included two touchdown drives. He'll continue to do so this weekend in Houston, where he'll make the first start of his two-year NFL career.
"It's another opportunity to go out there and play some ball, which I love. I played a lot of games in college, and when I was out there the other day it felt like I was in college again. So, I'm looking forward to the opportunity," Hogan said. "I'm going to prepare my butt off for the guys around me and make sure they have confidence in me and trust me to lead them so that I'm feeling good going into Sunday."
Hogan was feeling as good this past Sunday as he has since he arrived in Cleveland shortly before the start of the 2016 season.
Hogan, a former fifth-round pick by the Chiefs, replaced rookie DeShone Kizer in the second half of Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Jets. He led Cleveland on two scoring drives, including his first of the game to give the Browns their first lead of the season. He picked up where he left off in a preseason that began with him as the fourth quarterback off the bench and ended with him as Kizer's backup, as he completed quick passes to move the sticks and connected with tight end David Njoku for a highlight-reel, 21-yard touchdown throw.
Hogan finished with two touchdown passes and an interception while completing 16-of-19 passes for 194 yards. Hogan also ran for 30 yards on four attempts, flashing the kind of athleticism and smart reads he made when he ran for 104 yards in his NFL debut last season against the Bengals.
Sunday will provide Hogan with his biggest test yet, as he competes against a Texans defense that will be ready for him.
"We are going to make sure we get into this game plan and try to execute it to the best of our ability and catch them off guard whenever we can, take advantage of what they do on defense and what they do on defense is a lot of good things," Hogan said. "It is going to be a big week for all of us, just making sure that we are putting in that much more preparation and studying getting ready for this defense."
Hogan's been preparing for this moment for more than a year.
During the offseason, Hogan attacked the weaknesses in his game inside and outside of Berea. His footwork came into focus as he went through OTAs and minicamp, and he dug in with private coach Jeff Christensen in Chicago during the team's offseason break.
Even with a relatively limited number of snaps during the preseason, Hogan felt the dividends. When he received extended in-game opportunities, he made the most of them, as he finished the preseason with a 67.7 completion percentage, 269 yards and three touchdowns -- good for a 126.9 quarterback rating.
"I would like to think that I improved my feet, and in turn, it kind of shortened my release," Hogan said. "It is a work in progress, and I know that when you are out there sometimes you revert back to what feels natural. It is definitely a work in progress, but I feel like I am improving."
Months and months of work went into this opportunity, but Hogan isn't letting his focus drift beyond Sunday.
"We are getting toward the middle of the season, and we are just trying to get a win," Hogan said. "That is all that is on my mind, all that is on the minds of everyone in this locker room. I'm not worried about what's down the road."