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Running back Darius Hoggins, pictured during practice for the Ragin' Cajun football team on Sunday, July 30, 2017.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BRAD BOWIE --

LAFAYETTE — It took a little bit longer than expected, but Louisiana-Lafayette running back Darius Hoggins is finally hitting his stride after an off-the-field injury during preseason camp delayed the start of his final season as a Cajun.

“The injury was a big setback, not paying attention and had a dramatic injury,” Hoggins said. “I'm finally rejuvenated and getting my step back."

The story of Hoggins’ injury is a bit unusual. After going downstairs in the team dorms during preseason camp to get some refreshments, Hoggins took the stairs back up to his room.

With a drink and hamburger in one hand and his phone in the other, Hoggins began to climb.

“So I have my food, I'm going up the stairs, looking at SnapChat,” Hoggins recalled. “I misstepped and busted my jaw open."

At first, he didn't thing the fall was too bad.

"When I fell, I didn't think anything was wrong with me," he said. "I went to my room.”

But unfortunately for Hoggins and the Cajuns, the fall was more serious than it first appeared. Hoggins suffered a broken jaw.

The injury forced him to miss most of fall camp and the first two games of the season. But Hoggins refused the let the tough-luck injury set him back too much.

“I had a lot going through my head, but I stayed through it," he said. "The coaches kept me up, my teammates kept me up and I made it through it.”

Hoggins' hard work and refusal to let the injury define his final season is starting to show up on the field in a much-needed way for the Cajuns offense. Following a season-ending injury to fellow tailback Elijah Mitchell, Hoggins has become the Cajuns' No. 2 back behind redshirt freshman Trey Ragas.

While his 21 carries for 78 yards rushing isn't earth shattering, Hoggins' value to the offense can’t be measured in statistics alone. As the lone senior in a room full of talented but young and inexperienced backs, Hoggins often finds himself playing the role of teacher and coach.

“With me being a leader and seeing things they haven't seen, I'm the guy they get their information from,” he said. “I take that role personally and I really enjoy them asking me questions and giving them the knowledge of the game, because it's more than just playing football when you get to this level.”

At the same time, he isn’t one to brush off any information one of his younger teammates may have.

“I take coaching whether it’s from a coach or even a younger player," he said. "Iron sharpens iron, what he sees I might not see and it might help me, it might help the team.”

The Cajuns will continue to lean on Hoggins both on and off the field on Saturday at South Alabama. After a 47-3 loss to Arkansas State nearly two weeks ago, the Cajuns (3-4, 2-2 Sun Belt) will look to bounce back and take another step toward bowl eligibility.