Back on the field: Greenwood graduate returns after year out of football, school

Even when he wasn’t on the football field, Kole Stogner’s thoughts focused on the sport he’s played most of his life.

Whether extracting floodwaters from a residence in the middle of the night or assessing mold damage, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound running back found that he missed being a part of the Franklin College program.

Stogner, a Greenwood graduate who went on to play for the Grizzlies from 2013-15, left Franklin College in the spring of 2016 and missed all the 2016-17 school year due to an inability to pay tuition.

He worked at Hays and Sons Complete Restoration in Indianapolis for 11 months (August 2016 to July 2017) to save up for a return to school. Responsibilities included water removal and repairing water damage on floors, walls and ceilings.

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“I thought about (football) all the time. Every single day, even if I was working 60-hour weeks, I would go work out every single night after work,” Stogner said. “I would be exhausted and make sure I got my workouts in. I wanted to stay in the best shape I possibly could.

“I wanted to be here and finish out my last year with the team I had been with the three previous years.”

College athletes missing a season of competition usually do so either because they’re freshmen not quite acclimated to the speed and physicality of the sport, or due to injury.

Stogner’s situation was a bit different, but it ultimately benefited him and the football program.

The experience reinforced the value of a hard day’s work. All the football practices and games missed made Stogner determined to again run onto the field with his Grizzlies teammates.

Stogner has seen action the past four Saturdays and will again this weekend when Franklin hosts Manchester. He’s a backup running back and the team’s primary kickoff returner, averaging 19.7 yards per attempt this season.

Grizzlies head coach Mike Leonard applauds the senior’s drive.

“I think the year away where he had to work really became kind of a benefit for him professionally to see what’s out there,” Leonard said. “Not that Kole was immature before, but he’s more mature now. He is just such a team guy. He just brings to the table every day in practice and in games, he goes 100 percent every play.

“If everyone else could adopt that mindset, we could be spectacular.”

During his hiatus from school, Stogner was contacted by other football programs to determine if he had any interest in transferring.

He didn’t. Stogner sought to finish what he started, both academically and athletically. He’s an exercise science major who entered the 2017-18 school year about three semesters short of his degree. He hopes to finish during the 2018-19 school year.

Once Stogner’s final season of college football is complete, he’ll go back to work in pursuit of money to pay for tuition. He might return to Hays and Sons on a part-time basis or do personal training either independently or through a company.

As a Franklin College freshman, Stogner worked 30 to 40 hours a week at Applebee’s; the following year he took a job repairing old train cars at Mid-America Railing in Whiteland.

His parents, Mat and Cathy, have helped with finances in the past. Stogner lived with his parents at the family’s Greenwood residence his freshman school year as a means of saving money.

He currently lives off campus with his brother, Damian.

“I have a lot of money saved now,” Stogner said, “(but) after this semester I’m going to have to go back to work, even with being at school.”

Stogner’s career objective is to work in strength and conditioning at a high school or college. While attending Greenwood, Stogner looked up to Brian Smiley, the Woodmen’s strength and conditioning coordinator.

The running back also is an admirer of Leonard, which made those months of being on call at all hours of the day worth it.

“I’m having so much fun. Just being back with the team. Being around the coaches, especially coach (Leonard),” Stogner said. “I look up to him in a lot of ways. I’m glad to be back here. I’m grateful.

“I’ve matured a lot. Working 60 hours a week wasn’t easy. There were a lot of tough times. I just saw the real world.”

By the numbers

BACK TO WORK

Kole Stogner has returned to the Franklin College football team after a year off. His season-by-season numbers:

Year;Rushes;Yards;TD

2017;4;30;0

2015;87;419;5

2014;34;182;3

2013;52;230;4

Totals;177;861;12

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.