It all worked out in the end.
Harold “Gator” Hoskins was a wing-T high school quarterback who went to Marshall University with the idea of playing wide receiver. His coaches instead thought he might be better suited to play safety and perhaps move to linebacker if he bulked up. But then Hoskins showed up weighing 225 pounds and the decision was made to put him at tight end.
Before his collegiate career was done, Hoskins also would see action at fullback, he would line up in the slot, he would be split wide.
In terms of versatility, it’s not quite in the same stratosphere as the college career of current Dolphins tight end
It also just so happened that both players competed in Conference USA, with Clay playing at the University of Tulsa.
Not surprisingly, Hoskins was quite aware of Clay after he signed with the Dolphins as a rookie free agent.
“I remember one time I was watching some film on him,” Hoskins said. “He just was doing pretty good. I see the things that he’s done for Miami and I was like, hey, that could be me right there.
“He’s a great player. While I’m going to be here, that’s somebody I’m going to look up to, be in the meeting room, learning as much as I can from him and try to do some of the right things that he does. Just learn from his experience.”
Like the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Clay, Hoskins (6-2, 253) came out of college as an intriguing prospect but one without a clear projected position.
Is he a tight end? Is he an H-back? Is he a fullback?
It’s clearly worked out for Clay, who after a breakout third season was named by his peers as the 89th-best player in the league in the NFL Network’s Top 100.
As Clay did after being selected by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, Hoskins said his versatility was something he embraced and that he would be willing to play any position to earn a roster spot.
“I like playing a lot of different positions; it just means I’m versatile,” Hoskins said. “The more you can do, the better chance you can make the team and the better chance you can contribute.
“I’m a football player, so I could play anywhere.”
Hoskins didn’t just play at Marshall, he excelled. More precisely, he showed a tremendous knack for finding the end zone.
Hoskins set a school record for tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions as a junior in 2012 and shattered that mark last fall when he had 15 TD catches. That was seven more than any other tight end in the FBS (formerly Division I-A) ranks.
The career total of 28 touchdown receptions — Hoskins also scored three times as a sophomore — ranks third in school history behind second-place Darius Watts and all-time leader Randy Moss.
“It’s just hard work,” said Hoskins, who had two touchdowns during one of the OTA practices that was open to the media. “Some would say I’m lucky, but I’ll say it’s hard work. Going over in practice, running those same plays every day in practice and (quarterback Rakeem) Cato throwing me the ball and I’m coming down with it. So I’ll just say it comes from hard work.”
After earning 2013 first-team All-Conference USA honors in early December and becoming one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award given to the best tight end in college football, Hoskins closed out his college career in the Military Bowl against Maryland by catching six passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
It was quite the finish for Hoskins and more confirmation that the right decision was made when he was put at tight end.
When he first arrived at Marshall, incidentally, folks at the West Virginia school thought the nickname came from Hoskins having grown up in Gainesville, Fla. — you know, home of the Florida Gators.
Turns out Hoskins’s hometown has nothing to do with Gator in this case.
“My father gave it to me as soon as I was born,” Hoskins said of his nickname. “He got a lot of different stories why he gave me the name, but it just stuck with me since birth. I was born in California, so I was Gator in California.
“There’s a lot of different stories, but no matter what I just like going by Gator.”