Two-sport athlete Josh Hokit has proven to be one of the nation’s best wrestlers and a key contributor to the football team, and he’s tried to accomplish anything everything that was thrown his way in his four years at Fresno State.
The senior running back from Clovis High School has come to exemplify what it means to be a Bulldog as he prepares to play in his final game in Bulldog Stadium on Saturday against Nevada.
“I can’t say enough about Josh Hokit,” offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said. “I absolutely love that kid. He’s a warrior. We’ll miss his spirit. We’ll miss his play making ability for sure.”
After declining to attend Drexel University on a wrestling scholarship, Hokit walked onto the football team in 2016 and played running back, full back, linebacker and special teams. He was a part of the rebooted wrestling team in 2017, and last year he was one of the best wrestlers in the nation as he was named an All-American.
“Not going away for college was the best decision of my life,” Hokit said. “I’m just glad that I got to stay and perform in front of my friends and family. It’s really awesome. You don’t [have] to go to a different college to experience that. When you go to a different college or out of state college, that’s what you’re really missing – your friends, your family. So to compete at a high level in both sports like I got to, that’s just awesome. No better experience.”
Add in the fact that he’s scored 9 touchdowns this season – a career high – and it’s been quite the journey for the tailback who was even named a team captain recently.
“If you told me 10 years ago that I was going to be a Division 1 running back – I’ve never really played running back in my life, I’ve always played quarterback, and I’ve always played defense – safety, linebacker – I would just think you’re crazy,” Hokit said.
“And now looking where I am today, I’m an All-American wrestler, which that in itself – people train their whole life and they’ll never accomplish that. So I’m not taking anything for granted. And then even, how many touchdowns have I scored, 9 this year? It’s just a blessing, it’s awesome.”
Running backs coach Jamie Christian arrived in 2017 when head coach Jeff Tedford took over and has been there every step of the way with Hokit since.
“I’ve had Josh for the last three years,” Christian said. “He’s been a pleasure to coach, just comes to work every day. He’s a great kid, works his tail off, does everything you ask. He’s easy to coach. It’s been a pleasure coaching him. Definitely going to miss him around here. Very versatile player in everything he does. Great athlete, can catch the ball, great blocker, he can run the ball. He does a little bit of everything.”
This season hasn’t gone exactly as planned for Hokit. He had originally planned to switch over to linebacker with the intention of using a redshirt year to sit out, learn the position and gear up for next year. But injuries at running back in fall camp forced him to rejoin the offense, and he’s embraced every step of his journey.
“This is what I asked for,” Hokit said. “No one said it was going to be easy. At the end of the day, I feel like this has molded me as a human, as a person, making me the person I’m supposed to be.”
Although he hasn’t put up huge numbers yardage-wise this season, he’s been a humble leader and an example for the younger players, Christian said.
After team captain and left guard Netane Muti suffered a season ending injury earlier in the year, center Matt Smith was named as captain. But Smith also fell to the injury bug, which left a hole for Hokit to fill two weeks ago as the Bulldogs prepared to face Utah State.
While the team was stretching during practice the day before the game, Tedford approached Hokit and told him he was going to go in for Smith and be a captain.
“It’s cool going out there, makes me feel a little important,” Hokit joked.
Christian said he’s very proud of Hokit for being named a captain and for being humble throughout his journey.
“He’s always given me a great attitude, never been an issue. I appreciate that part of him. He’s always dialed in. Anything I’ve asked him to do, special teams wise, he’s been there. And I think the kid has a chance at the next level to maybe do something. Hopefully somebody will give him an opportunity, because I think he could do a lot of different things.”
Grubb added, “I definitely don’t think this will be Josh Hokit’s last football game whenever this season ends. I really strongly believe that he has a career after this, and I think he’s got the right mindset. He’s tough. He puts pressure on himself, and he’s hard on himself. Those kind of guys succeed.”
Given his versatility, what position would NFL teams want Hokit to play?
Grubb has an idea: “He’s got a physical skill set that I think matches the next level fullback.”
But before he hits the wrestling mat for another season and before he tries for the NFL, Hokit still has to get through Senior Day. He said he’ll have his parents on the field with him for the pregame celebrations because they’ve supported him every step of the way.
“It’s probably going to hit me after the game’s over I think,” Hokit said. “I don’t really show emotions like that. I don’t really cry or anything, but I don’t know, that might actually get me. I look back at where I started, and it’s been a journey. It’s been awesome, and emotions are going to be high once I start thinking about that.”
As he just has a couple more chances on the football field, Hokit would like fans to see that he’s never put any limitations on himself.
“A lot of people will put limitations on other people, and they get in that mindset where they can’t do something because someone else is saying you can’t do it,” Hokit said. “I’m here to do two sports, and I’m here to accomplish anything and everything that I possibly can while I’m here.
“People come in with the mindset of, ‘Oh I can only play football. You can’t be an All-American. You can’t be a national champ.’ And I’m here to prove everybody wrong. We get one shot at this college thing, so I just want to be remembered as a guy that just gave it his all.”
Photo: Fresno State Athletics.