Fresno State's Josh Hokit defies the odds as freshman walk-on

Fresno State linebacker Josh Hokit walked on to the Fresno State football team just more than two months ago. The true freshman from nearby Clovis High School is not being redshirted, in fact he's playing in all three phases - offense, defense and special teams.

It’s a tough task for true freshmen to earn playing time in college football today, but Fresno State's Josh Hokit is part of an even less likely group. Hokit is not only a true freshman, he’s a walk-on - and is not only playing, but has earned a spot on the Bulldogs’ offense, defense and special teams.

Overall, Hokit is one of only three true freshmen to participate in all five of Fresno State’s games.

The do-it-all Clovis High School athlete was actually bound for another sport before a late change of heart. Hokit had committed to a wrestling scholarship at Drexel, but decided to take a risk on following his football passion. The gamble led to a walk-on spot with the hometown team.

“I reached out to [Fresno State football], saying I decommitted to wrestling,” Hokit said. “I don’t think they believed in me at the time. But then I did what I did my senior year. They reached out to me and said they had a walk-on spot for me. I wasn’t happy about that, but it is what it is. I’m happy to stay home and the [Fresno State] wrestling team is [reinstated], I just have to keep working and eventually I’ll get what I want.

“I came as a walk-on, I still am, but I don’t look at myself like that. I know what I’m capable of. I don’t need anybody to believe in me, I just need to believe in myself. That’s my mindset coming in here.”

Hokit found a way to get the coach’s attention within just a few fall camp practices - with bone-crunching hits. The 6-foot-2 and 215-pound athlete proved just how impressive his power is, drawing vocal reactions from fans attending the team’s open scrimmage in August.

“I think that’s when they knew I could play, when I started being physical,” Hokit said. “I don’t play like a freshman. I’m fearless. When I hit you, I hit you. I’m not scared of nothing. When I’m hitting these people, my teammates, some of those plays, they were eye opening. They realized I could play.”

By the season’s start, Fresno State’s coaching staff specifically moved Hokit from inside linebacker to outside linebacker to find a spot on the two-deep for him. Special teams was a given, as opposing kick returners seek lanes away from the hard-hitter.

In recent weeks, Hokit has even earned his way onto the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs made a switch in offensive schemes in the past offseason and have not recruited a fullback. Hokit was selected to fill the void and provide new packages on offense.

“They had me playing some fullback,” Hokit said. “I’m just doing whatever they want me to do, contributing however… They just told me, ‘Block this guy.’ I said, ‘I’ll do whatever, I aint scared of nothing.’ They just tell me, ‘Line up here, block that guy - it’s simple. It’s just fullback, you just block somebody.’

“I’ll do anything to help this team win. I’m only a freshman, but kickoffs, special teams, I’ll do whatever.”

Hokit has logged four tackles overall in his freshman season, earning three tackles in the Bulldogs’ only win of the season versus Sacramento State.

“Not many freshmen get to do that,” Hokit said. “I’m one of four or five that got to travel with the team. There aren’t many freshmen around the country that get to travel as a freshman. So I’m just enjoying the moment. It’s a cool experience.”

At this rate, he will soon be a much bigger factor for the ‘Dogs on the field, and on the wrestling mat too.

“I know Lorenzo Neal did the same thing,” Hokit said. “Wrestling isn’t going to set me back from being a good football player. It will probably help me and give me an advantage wrestling big dudes. That will definitely help me be physical out here.”

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