STANFORD -- Coach David Shaw rattled off the attributes that earned redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan the coveted quarterback spot on a Stanford team preparing to face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
Comprehension on the field. Competitive instincts. Athleticism. His ability to both run and pass. Accuracy.
Not too shabby a list for someone who was the backup until Nov. 10, the 10th game of the season. With Hogan as the starter, Stanford finished 4-0 -- all against Top 25 teams, including a road win over then-No. 1 Oregon.
The next question for Shaw was obvious. What took you so long?
"Trust me, I've answered 10 different versions of that question. The bottom line? He was not ready to play," said Shaw, who credited offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton with finding the best way to explain it: "Do you want fine wine or grape juice? Sometimes you have to let a player mature."
As Hogan tells it, a high school basketball injury put him in position to become that player for Stanford.
Growing up in McLean, Va., as the grandson of a Navy quarterback and the son of an AT&T executive, he arrived at prestigious Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., as a two-sport athlete, unsure which to pursue long term.
"In the end, I broke my finger playing basketball and missed the rest of my junior season," Hogan said. "I had some scholarship offers in football, so I just wanted to focus on that. And I'm so glad I did."
His coach for the final two years at Gonzaga, Aaron Brady, said the staff there realized by Hogan's sophomore season that he had the makings of a big-time college quarterback. And he seemed genetically wired to make Notre Dame his next stop as both parents attended the university.
But Notre Dame did not offer a scholarship, Brady said, and Hogan began considering schools closer to home -- Virginia, Clemson, Rutgers. Priorities changed after he met with Stanford's Hamilton, who stopped at Gonzaga on an East Coast recruiting tour.
"I fit better in this offense, and Stanford's an amazing institution," Hogan said. "That trumped everything."
Hogan committed to Stanford expecting Jim Harbaugh to be his coach. When Harbaugh left for the 49ers and other colleges pressed Hogan to reconsider, Brady said, the two of them talked things over.
"I asked him, 'What if you don't play football there?' " Brady said. "He says, 'I love the school.' I told him then you need to stay in Stanford, whoever the coach is. It ended up being David Shaw, who he knew, so that worked out great."
Hogan was redshirted during the 2011 season as Andrew Luck returned for one final season before leaving as the NFL's top draft pick. At that point, the 2012 starting job went to Josh Nunes.
Hogan was on the field for only a handful of plays in the first eight games. His lone passing attempt was a 9-yard gain against Cal; he ran the ball seven times for 13 yards.
"We gave him a little bit early on, and then we gave him incrementally more," Shaw said. "If you think about what it took to win the USC and Arizona games, he was not ready to do that."
But Hogan was learning. Shaw's game plan Nov. 3 at Colorado called for Nunes to run the first two series and Hogan the next two, with events dictating what would happen next. After the Cardinal was forced to punt in those first two possessions, Hogan led four consecutive touchdown drives en route to a 48-0 victory.
"Kevin was playing well during practice, and we knew that eventually he would get a shot," All-America tight end Zach Ertz said. "But, honestly, I would say he kind of exceeded everyone's expectations in that first game."
Hogan said when he took the field at Colorado, his goal was simply to avoid mistakes. "Just chuck it down if it was there and not try to force anything or do anything that was out of character," he said.
With Hogan's ability to run and pass, nothing is really out of character. That, his coaches and teammates say, creates space for others on offense and was key to Stanford's rise to No. 6 in the BCS rankings.
"It opened up the playbook a little more with his mobility and being able to throw both ways, rolling left or right," said senior running back Stepfan Taylor, Stanford's leader in rushing yards and touchdowns. "It makes us more of a balanced offense."
Hogan racked up impressive numbers in leading Stanford to wins over Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA twice. He finished the season with 97 completions in 133 attempts (72.9 percent) for 973 yards and nine touchdowns. He threw only three interceptions.
Hogan finished with 209 yards rushing, second only to Taylor. And two of the quarterback's 48 carries ended as touchdowns.
Hogan comes across as a quiet guy, and Shaw describes him as someone who leads by example rather than fiery speeches. Players note, however, that he showed leadership from that first huddle.
"Just the confidence in his voice, not calling the play all quiet," Taylor said. "He's like, 'Let's go, we've got to win this game, we've got to win this snap.' That's always encouraging. He's all business, but he's having fun. That's what you like to see."
Away from the spotlight, Hogan's suitemates at Stanford and road roommate Kelsey Young say he shows more personality.
"He's really kind of a goof," said backup center Kevin Reihner. "There's six of us living in a suite, and he's not the same serious, stoic guy. I mean he'll joke around. He's not a robot, I keep telling people."
Once finals were finished earlier this month, Hogan used what extra free time he had for "Freefall" video game battles with his suitemates and to catch up on his two favorite TV series, "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland."
But back on the practice field, Hogan knew where his attention had to be focused -- a Rose Bowl game that became part of his New Year's Day schedule long before he had an inkling he might play in it.
"You watched the Rose Bowl -- the granddaddy of them all -- and great teams came through this bowl game," Hogan said. "I didn't know maybe at the time that I would have that opportunity, but it's an amazing opportunity and I look forward to it."
ROSE BOWL: Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 2 p.m. ESPN