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Football: West grad Torgerson finding success in Kansas at the NAIA level
"People out here, everyone's hunting," West Forsyth graduate Grant Torgerson (left) said about life in Winfield, Kansas while playing at Southwestern College. Photo courtesy Southwestern College athletics.

When Grant Torgerson jumped from high school to college football, he didn’t just enter a higher level of competition. He jumped into an entirely new world.

After his years playing football at West Forsyth, Torgerson went far from home to continue his football career, playing at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. College football was different than what he was used to, but so was everything else around him. Adjusting to his new life had its challenges at first, but thanks to his roommates, he picked up a new hobby to help with that.

“The first semester (was), I don't know how else to put it but eye-opening,” Torgerson said. “Forsyth County in general was just a great area to grow up in, but there's a ton of stuff around there. You go to Kansas and going to college, even if you're not playing football, it's a completely different atmosphere. It's just completely different in terms of people, how they interact.

“People out here, everyone's hunting. Hunting and fishing is their life out here and it's kind of funny, it's kind of something I just kind of slid into. You're trying to talk to friends, you're trying to fit into the college. That was kind of funny, though.”

He’s adjusted pretty well to the NAIA football ranks as a linebacker, too. As a junior, he led the Moundbuilders in tackles with 96, after registering 111 as a sophomore. At the end of the season, he earned a spot on the AFCA NAIA All-American team as an honorable mention.

“It's obviously really cool -- I'm not going to say it's not important or anything like that,” Torgerson said. “It's really cool accolades. I think kind of the whole year, what you do off the field, on the field, all of it, it just kind of wraps up with that award at the end of the year. I just think if you take care of business day in and day out, you don't really have that goal going into it, but it all kind of works itself out.”

Coming out of high school, Torgerson was mostly recruited by NAIA schools. At 5-foot-10, he’s not the biggest linebacker out there, and when offers from bigger schools didn’t come, there was certainly some disappointment.

“You want to tell your buddies that you're going to play at Kennesaw State or the Georgia Techs and all these D1 programs, but at the end of the day, not many people get to do that,” he said. “If you take advantage of your opportunities, I think doors are going to open up for you and you'll get whatever you put into it.”

And Torgerson took full advantage of the opportunity he was given. He bulked up a little bit, and even though the move to Kansas wasn’t ideal, there were some familiar faces there to greet him. Former West teammate Eli Huggins was at Kansas State, and then-West coach Frank Hepler’s son was coaching in the state as well. When it came time to actually play, Torgerson quickly realized that NAIA football was still a big step up from high school.

“I think there's a misconception with NAIA just because it's not D1, it's not D2,” Torgerson said. “There’s people that are 24 years old playing college football -- there's a big difference between an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old, you know?”

But while he improved his game on the field, there were some lessons he learned off the field as well. When he was a sophomore, the Moundbuilders went through a tragedy, losing their quarterback and a running back in a car accident. While it was a sad moment for the whole team, it helped Torgerson put his life in perspective.

“I don't really know how to describe it,” Torgerson said. “It’s one of those moments where you sit back and realize it's bigger than football. It was one of those things that was a turning point for me outside of football.”

While he wasn’t positive about staying in Kansas as a freshman, Torgerson has no intention to leave now. With a year left in his football career, he’s excited to see what comes next.

“Where I'm at is good for me, it fits for me,” Torgerson said. “I’ve made some great friends outside of football, connections that I'm going to have after football.”