Kristen Hoskins' journey to the Big Ten becomes official with the love and support of two families
From Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Alexandria -- Kristen Hoskins' road to signing to play football with the Gophers on Wednesday morning was a winding path and one strengthened by the support of his mother, along with the Steffensmeier family from Alexandria.
Kristen Hoskins sat down at a table in the Alexandria High School gym to put pen to paper and make a dream come true on Wednesday morning decked out in a buttoned-up white shirt and a maroon blazer with the University of Minnesota “M” on his cap.
At his side were the people who helped make this day a reality. Friends. Family. Coaches. Teammates.
Hoskins, a receiver known for his game-breaking speed and athleticism, is quick to say they all played an important role in going from a young kid who moved from Chicago to Minneapolis and then Alexandria to signing to play Big Ten football with the Gophers.
“This is surreal. As a kid where I grew up from, I never would have thought that I would be in this situation I am, but that’s God’s blessings,” Hoskins said. “Thanks to my family, my mom, friends -- without them none of this is possible.”
The love and support of two families
Hoskins’ journey to high school star in both football and basketball and a future with the Gophers was aided by the love and support of two families. His mother, Kenyatta Hardy, was born and raised in Chicago. Kristen has three siblings -- older brothers Yanta and Yanshon and younger sister Khamaria.
“I moved to Minneapolis into a shelter and found housing there,” Hardy said of her family’s move from Chicago almost 10 years ago. “By me being in a shelter, you have to do a housing search. My name came up for Alexandria housing. That’s how we ended up in Alexandria. I came here because my name came up on the waitlist to receive an apartment.”
Hardy was admittedly nervous about the move from a bigger city to a smaller community like Alexandria, but she said Kristen adjusted quickly. Both her and Hoskins said it’s a move that has been good for them.
Hoskins was a 6th-grader when Jay and Jenny Steffensmeier moved from southwest Minnesota to Alexandria with their four kids -- Drew, Carter, Bralyn and Ayden. Carter and Kristen were in the same grade and almost immediately hit it off.
“Me and Carter were boys in middle school when he moved here,” Hoskins said. “I ain’t going to lie. He was good at basketball. I was a little jealous. I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’ We just built a relationship over the school year, and he knew my home life wasn’t the best. He talked to his mom and said, ‘Mom, can this kid Kristen stay with us for a little bit.’
Hoskins does not have a relationship with his father.
“Sometimes I question it, but I’ve come a long way without him, so I’m just blessed,” he said.
As his friendship with Carter grew as young kids, Hoskins was spending more and more time at the Steffensmeiers’ home.
“They were so supportive,” Hardy said. “He needed that extra support. I was a single mom struggling, working two jobs. They were very helpful making sure he completed his tasks and getting to and from school. Sometimes he missed the bus, so they’ve been a big part of his life. I’m grateful for them.”
A young kid with a big heart
The Steffensmeiers obtained legal guardianship of Hoskins during a period through school where he moved in with them for multiple years.
Kristen and Carter were always together, and Jay and Jenny quickly saw a young kid in Kristen with a big heart who needed a little extra guidance.
“Him and Carter had become very close,” Jenny said. “The more he was over, the more he needed just a little more structure. His mom was doing everything she could, and we just felt God’s calling that it was the right thing to do. Somebody just needed a little bit more help, and we’re thankful that his mom was trusting enough that we could co-parent with her.”
"He’s got a big heart. He’s easy to love. He’s been a big part of our lives. We’re just super proud of what he’s accomplished and where he’s come from and what he’s going to accomplish going forward."
- Jay Steffensmeier on Kristen Hoskins
Hoskins does not hesitate to call the Steffensmeiers a second family when asked to describe his relationship with them.
“It was absolutely crazy,” Hoskins said of Jay and Jenny welcoming him into their home. “Just moving from Chicago and Minneapolis, I ain’t used to stuff like that. I’m like, ‘Wow. Why is this family trying to help me out so much?’ This was way before I was good at sports. They took me in as just a kid. That means a lot to me. More than an athlete in their eyes.”
As a senior now, Hoskins is back living with his mom. He calls Kenyatta his world.
“Without her, without the guidance none of it is possible,” he said. “She’s a blessing from God.”
‘He’s the best athlete we’ve ever had’
The word “blessing” is one Hoskins has used a lot over the years to describe his ascension in athletics at Alexandria. His friendship with Carter goes far beyond sports, but the two grew together in both football and basketball to help the Cardinals accomplish big things.
They were both starters and impact players on the basketball team last winter that finished as the Class AAA state runner-up. They are at the center of another team ranked fourth in state and off to a 4-0 start this winter.
The same can be said in football after they helped the Cardinals to the state tournament this past fall season.
Steffensmeier, a two-year starter at quarterback, threw for 2,541 yards and 25 touchdowns. Fifteen of those touchdowns went to Hoskins, who finished 2021 with 1,185 yards on 83 receptions.
Steffensmeier is second in Alexandria program history in both yards thrown (3,579) and passing touchdowns (35).
Hoskins, who made his varsity debut late in his freshman season, set Alexandria receiving marks that look impossible to break. His 222 career receptions are 134 more than the second all-time mark of 88. His 3,052 yards and 37 receiving touchdowns also shattered the previous school records of 1,237 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Hoskins’ career receiving numbers put him second all-time in state history in catches, fifth in yards and and sixth in receiving touchdowns.
“In terms of athleticism, he’s the best athlete we’ve ever had in our program,” Alexandria offensive coordinator Russ Hinrichs said. “In terms of his skills, the things he can do and how much he’s improved from the time he was a freshman to now. From his route running, to his blocking, everything he does within our offense. Skill-position-player wise, I think he’s the best we’ve ever had. That’s a credit to him. He set high goals for himself and what he wanted to achieve.”
Big things in the Big Ten
Hinrichs believes Hoskins can go to the Gophers and make an immediate impact on special teams with his return ability aided by his speed. Hoskins was hand-timed before his senior season during an Alexandria practice with a 4.27-second 40-yard dash.
“From a receiver standpoint, he’s going to get the best coaching,” Hinrichs said. “I see at the college level him being one of those inside slot receiver type guys. He has the speed and he is strong. He is physical, and physically built. For him, it will just be redefining that route running and offensively picking up on their scheme. They have really good coaches, and he loves it down there. He’s going to fit right in.”
Anyone who has watched Hoskins grow into an upperclassman at the high school level knows he loves to compete and does not lack confidence. At about 5-feet, 10-inches, there were times he doubted as a young kid if he could play at the Big Ten level. Not anymore after being around the players more since making a verbal commitment to Minnesota in February.
“I’m 100% confident right now,” Hoskins said. “I look at the players, and I think that’s me too. I feel pretty good. I want to be a big impact on special teams. I’m sure they’ll get me in some jet sweeps, some screens, so it’s all going to be good.”
Hoskins does not want to be just a player on the roster for the Gophers.
“Just be successful,” he said of his ultimate goals with the program. “I want to be someone in life. Be successful.”
Hoskins flashed a big smile with friends and family by his side as his mother put the final signature on his paperwork to officially become a Gopher on Wednesday.
It was the next step in a journey that took hard work by Hoskins himself and the help and support from many people around him.
“He’s just been very special to our family,” Jay Steffensmeier said as he fought back tears. “He’s got a big heart. He’s easy to love. He’s been a big part of our lives. We’re just super proud of what he’s accomplished and where he’s come from and what he’s going to accomplish going forward.”