When Alfonso Hoggard, Clarion University's senior all-purpose back football player, was in 9th grade, he started a daily commute of 45 minutes to an hour by train, from his family's home in Philadelphia to the private school in Delaware where his parents enrolled him.
"At first I was skeptical," Hoggard said. "I didn't like the traveling. It was taking up a lot of my time during the day."
Hoggard said he awakened at 4 a.m. to catch the train to school. He had football practice until 5 p.m., then he caught the late train and arrived home around 8 p.m.
"I started to realize it was a better opportunity, better schooling. The football program was pretty good. I didn't want to do it at first, but I grew into it, and I got attached to it," he said.
Hoggard recognized the opportunity before him. He also found opportunity in his 5-foot-2-inch stature.
"I know that a lot of people out there overlook me because I'm smaller. I use that to my advantage," Hoggard said. "I can hide behind bigger guys, and it's harder for the defense to see me."
The work on the field was secondary, however, to his schoolwork.
"When I was growing up, my mother instilled it in me, in order to do anything else, you gotta get your school work done." Hoggard said. "In order to play football I had to keep my grades up."
When Hoggard started looking at colleges, his high school football coach, Clarion alumnus John Smith, guided him.
"I was looking for a combination of academics and a football program. A lot of schools didn't want to let me play football at that level," Hoggard said. "I knew I wanted to do something with business. My coach told me (Clarion) is a top school for the things I want to do."
That work ethic guided him to an exceptional college football career, culminating in the opportunity to play in the Division II Cactus Bowl All-Star Game in Texas in January, where he ran three times for 12 yards and returned a punt for 7 yards.
"I always thought since I'm always the smallest guy, I have to work twice as hard as everyone on the field," Hoggard said. "I knew that the hard work would pay off down the line. That's all I've been doing my college career, working hard in the classroom so I can be out on the field, and transitioning that hard work to the field."
Hoggard will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in finance and economy.
"Numbers come easy to me. It's always been like that through high school. Math classes and statistics were fun for me," he said.
Although Hoggard likes numbers, he's happy not to have been treated like one at Clarion University.
"The professors really take notice of who's in class, who that person is. They have an open door policy," he said. "I have good relationships with a lot of the professors in the business department."
Hoggard is part of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and he sits on the Student Senate board, where he is involved with the Appropriations and Student Relations committees.
"Academic-wise, the best advice I could give is to be able to manage your time well. Be on top of your academics and establish a good relationship with your advisors and professors," he said. "As far as football goes, (my advice is) time management and being in shape."
He plans to continue training and hope for a phone call.
"I had a great football career here, a great academic career. I enjoyed everything," Hoggard said. "I will miss Clarion -- Clarion athletics and academics. Good luck to everyone else coming up through. I had a great time."