PSU dream becomes reality for Hoenstine

The Hoenstine name has been synonymous with great baseball for generations.

The family was the heart of the powerful Thomas teams in the Altoona Greater City League. Dave played minor league ball in the Reds chain. His oldest son, A.J., helped Mansfield to a pair of PSAC titles and has coached Central to the PIAA championship game. Nick, another of Dave’s sons, has gone on to play college ball, too.

But Dave could see very early on that his son Alex was a little different.

“It was really tough to get him to (play baseball) in the summer,” Dave Hoenstine said. “He was getting invited by teams to go to their camps. He said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to do that.'”

Even though Dave said Alex could do things on the diamond that he and A.J. only could dream of performing, Alex’s heart was somewhere else.

It was in football.

On Wednesday, Alex Hoenstine saw his vision of playing his favorite sport at the Power Five conference level realized when he announced he was going to be taking up Penn State on its offer to be a preferred walk-on with the Nittany Lions.

“It’s always been my dream,” Alex Hoenstine said of the Division I opportunity. “I grew up watching them, and it’s close to home.”

There’s no doubt Hoenstine has the ability to warrant the opportunity. This fall, he set Central’s single-season rushing (2,480 yards) and scoring (49 touchdowns) records while becoming the first player in Scarlet Dragon history to reach 4,000 rushing yards in a career.

He was the focal point on a team that reached the PIAA semifinals for the second straight year. After the season, he was recognized as the Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 3A player of the year, the Altoona Mirror player of the year and a USA Today all-state first-team player.

Hoenstine was recruited by FCS-level Division I schools like Saint Francis and Robert Morris, as well as Division II programs like Alderson-Broaddus, Seton Hill, Cal (Pa.), Shippensburg, Lock Haven and Shepherd. However, in January, bigger fish came into the picture pitching something different to the Dragon-football-standout-turned-all-Mountain-League shortstop in the spring.

West Virginia and then Pitt approached Hoenstine about coming into their program as an invited non-scholarship player. The week leading up to signing day, Penn State head coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead were in his home.

“I never saw him light up like that before,” Dave Hoenstine said.

Alex hadn’t been at a game in 2016, but he had been to Beaver Stadium for a game the previous fall. He began to hear from the Nittany Lion coaches on his Twitter account.

“That really said a lot to me,” Alex Hoenstine said.

The younger Hoenstine said, despite most of his family’s affinity for baseball, football has been No. 1 for him since he began to play.

“I like the atmosphere,” he said. “I definitely like the contact. I also like that you can control the game more with the ball in your hands.”

Hoenstine is going to Penn State as an athlete, but it looks like his first shot will be as a wide receiver, where his 6-foot-2, 184-pound frame and remarkable body control seems like a good fit.

And football was the perfect fit for him, too.

“He loves football,” Dave Hoenstine said. “We’re happy for him.”

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