Franklin College running back Kole Stogner spent the past two football seasons learning the importance of patience.
A backup as a freshman and sophomore, Greenwood Community High School’s career rushing leader with close to 3,000 yards has moved into the role of feature back in coach Mike Leonard’s pass-happy offense.
The journey from Point A to Point B wasn’t seamless, but Stogner, who actually contemplated transferring to another school at the conclusion of the 2014 season, is thankful he chose to remain at Franklin College.
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“I’ll be honest: I was frustrated. There was a point where I talked to different schools, but I’ve built so many relationships here,” said Stogner, who last season carried the football 34 times for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
“People reached out to me. They didn’t want me to leave. Friends would talk to me on campus or text me. The people on our staff are just great, and those are the kind you want to surround yourself with.”
The 5-foot-8, 200-pound junior’s debut as a Grizzlies starter on offense took place in Saturday’s 34-24 season-opening loss to Illinois Wesleyan at Faught Stadium.
Stogner rushed 12 times for 41 yards and had two catches for 13 yards.
Next for Franklin College is tonight’s game at Butler, a 6:30 p.m. kickoff and the first of the Grizzlies’ two night games this season.
Again, Stogner will multitask.
Capable of bench-pressing 405 pounds and squatting 540 pounds, it’s the junior’s speed which also makes him a valued commodity on special teams.
This includes returning kickoffs — Stogner led the Grizzlies last season with 13 for an average of 21.5 yards — and being utilized as a rush end when the opponent is punting or attempting a field goal or conversion kick.
“Kole is very quick. He’s improved in so many of the things he does. Everyone at some point wonders where you should be, and I think Kole realized over the summer this is where he should be. That the big time is where you are,” Leonard said.
“You have to remember Kole was stuck behind a real good running back the past couple of years.”
Running back Joey Pasquale and quarterback Grant Welp, seniors last fall, accounted for 66 percent of the team’s rushing attempts and 63 percent of the yardage.
Enter Stogner, whose combination of strength and speed promises to complement both the Franklin College aerial attack and quick first steps of 5-5, 180-pound junior back Ty’Ronte Files.
“Kole has to run up inside in our offense, and he can run outside. When running wide he can make quick cuts and just explodes up field. And Kole always gives full effort, which is what inspires his teammates,” Leonard said.
Stogner is stronger and a good 15 pounds heavier than when he first arrived on the Franklin College campus the summer of 2013.
More importantly, he’s more mature.
“I looked up to Joey Pasquale, the way he carried himself on and off the field. Not a lot of people are like that. It’s just by his actions. I know how hard Joey worked, and I respect that. I work really hard, too, and take pride in that,” Stogner said.
“Sometimes you have to step back and look at your situation completely. I’ve paid my dues and am ready to step up. My strength, speed and conditioning are all up. These next two years I feel could be big for our team and myself.”
THE STOGNER FILE
Name: Kole Stogner
Family: Parents, Mat and Cathy; brother, Damion, 34
Favorite TV show: “Sons of Anarchy”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Warrior”
Favorite athlete: Barry Sanders
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts
What: Franklin College (0-1) at Butler (0-1)
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Last meeting: Butler won 31-28 in 2013
All-time series: Butler leads 38-16-2
Of note: Game is first of two consecutive for Grizzlies to be played under the lights. They host Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Anderson for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 26.