NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Derek Hagan wouldn’t mind a full-time job one day working in sports media, but just not any time soon.
Sure, that sports talk spot for Fox Sports Radio last football season as part of the Jason Smith Show piqued his interest. The NFL veteran had plenty of perspective and tales to offer from nearly two decades of playing the sport at every level.
But doing sports talk last season wasn’t Hagan’s first choice. Rather, the Bucs made that decision for him when they cut him during training camp, putting a pro career on hold after seven NFL seasons.
Hagan, the 2006 third-round pick of the Dolphins, is trying to make it an eighth year in the league, signing with the Titans in June and battling for a roster spot in a deep wide receivers pool.
"It was a whole lot of fun," Hagan said of doing sports talk radio last year. "Who doesn’t want to get on and talk sports all day? But definitely not this year. This year, it’s all football from here."
Hagan is apparently making the most of his shot to return to the league with the Titans, who are set with their top three receivers in veteran Nate Washington, emerging star Kendall Wright and second-year deep threat Justin Hunter. From there, though, there are currently eight other wide receivers vying for what could well be just two vacancies.
"Derek understands that," Titans wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said following Monday’s training camp session about Hagan’s chances of eventually making the 53-man roster. "This is not his first rodeo. He has been around and understands it.
"The good thing about Derek, he has come out to work every day. He’s not even thinking about the numbers. All he is doing is coming out and competing every day. He is going to let the chips fall where they may. All he can do is his best."
Last week, when the Titans released their initial depth chart under new coach Ken Whisenhunt, Hagan was listed as the top backup behind Washington. Wright was listed as the starter on the other side ahead of Hunter. In Saturday’s preseason victory over the Saints that was marred by a driving rainstorm, Hagan did not catch a pass, but he was only one of three wide receivers targeted.
"All I can do is go out there and make plays when my number is called," said Hagan, who has 129 career catches for 1,480 yards and six touchdowns. His best season came playing all 16 games in 2007 for the Dolphins, posting 29 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns.
"I just go out there and play," he added. "We’re all a team. We’re all a unit, even though we are all competing for spots. That’s what’s fun about it. You have to go out there and work hard every day, and we’ll see what happens toward the end of camp. For myself, I just know I have to leave it all out on the field every single day."
Hagan departed Arizona State in 2006 as the all-time leading receiver not only in school history, but the Pac-12 Conference as well. He was also the Sun Devils’ career leader in receiving yards, touchdowns and 100-yard games. But he never could emerge as a top-line receiver in three seasons with the Dolphins.
After two seasons with the Giants from 2009-10, he split 2011 between the Raiders and Bills and spent all of 2012 with the Raiders. Having always found a roster spot made 2013 quite different just sitting and watching and talking about football on the radio.
"All the time last year, I was thinking I should be out there playing right now instead of sitting at home and watching football on Sundays," Hagan said. "Obviously, it was totally different for myself, playing football for so long, and last year was the first I didn’t play that time of year."
Joining Hagan as leading candidates to make the Titans as the fourth and fifth wide receivers and maybe a sixth are two roster holdovers — fifth-year Marc Mariani, who missed the last two seasons with injuries, and second-year Michael Preston, a big and athletic receiver with a large upside. Also in the mix is sixth-year veteran Brian Robiskie, who like Hagan possesses NFL experience and is trying to find a NFL roster spot.
"It is obvious that he loves it," Jefferson said of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Hagan. "That has been in evidence since day one when we signed him. He has been a great leader in our (wide receivers room). He has had a great camp up to this day.
"He’s good for me, because he’s just like having another coach in the room. He’s been through the fire. Those guys can help coach the young guys along with me. It’s been great. He’s done a good job for me."
While Mariani has kickoff and punt return capabilities in his repertoire, Hagan has also been a special teams standout throughout his career. That increases chances to make the roster, according to his position coach.
"Derek has a plus because he can play special teams," Jefferson said. "Usually on most teams, your fourth and fifth receivers, they have to be able to contribute on special teams. He is a heckuva special teams player as well."
The Titans have two more preseason games — Friday at the Saints and Aug. 23 at the Falcons — before NFL rosters must be cut to 75 players by Aug. 26. Two days later, the Titans close the preseason by hosting the Vikings. NFL rosters will be trimmed to 53 players by Aug. 30 before an eight-man development squad is formed the next day.
The Titans open the season Sept. 7 at Kansas City. That’s where Hagan hopes to find himself. That after-football sports talk gig or wherever he heads next can hopefully come later.
"I was bummed out last year because I didn’t play," Hagan said, "and now I am back. So, I’ve got an extra chip on my shoulder just from being out, because I felt like something was taken away from me last year. I had been playing football for so long, since I was 8, 9, 10 years old, something like that.
"Last year was the first year not playing in 20 years. It was different. But I’m back. I’m thankful, and I’m just here to work."