By Mark Janssen
Blake Slaughter will tell you, "I love football to death. I've been playing it since I was a 7-year-old, but it's not everything. There will be life after football."
But for now, football is very much a part of Slaughter's complex formula of having a student-athlete / athlete-student lifestyle as he heads back to his home state for Saturday's 2:35 kickoff against the Baylor Bears.
Of the start against the Cyclones in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, Slaughter, a native of Missouri City, Texas, said, "That was nice. Every player wants the opportunity to start and an opportunity to help the team. And, it was nice that my parents (Ava and Steve) were in the stands."
That performance earned Slaughter significant playing time against Central Florida the next week when he led the team in tackles with 13 in the thrilling 17-13 victory. Now through the sixth game of the season, which included another start against Nebraska, Slaughter's 30 tackles ranks fifth on the team.
"Blake has played well. He's a very competitive guy. I like his spirit and how hard he plays," said K-State coach Bill Snyder. "He's still learning the system, but he seems to be in the right place at the right time. Where he might have trouble is that his aggressiveness sometimes gets him out of position. He's a steady, steady performer."
After recording a team-high 124 tackles in his junior season at Elkins High School, an ACL injury in the second game of his senior season ended his prep career.
The Wildcats kept Slaughter on their radar, and after playing in eight games last year as a true-freshman, he is now in the regular rotation mix of Wildcat linebackers.
While openly admitting that he is not the most gifted athlete to hit the Big 12 Conference, Slaughter says, "I focus on doing things right and just making the most of the talent I do have. I'm still learning, and will be for quite some time."
STUDENT: Slaughter, a National Honors Society member in high school and member of the state of Texas first-team Academic team, decided he wanted to be a mechanical engineer during his junior year.
"I don't know where that came from because there are no engineers in my family," said Slaughter. "I just liked math and enjoyed science, so here I am."
Slaughter is currently enrolled in four classes totaling 12 hours.
So what, you ask?
Well, those classes just happen to be Mechanical Materials, Structural Materials, Computer Application in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Circuits and Controls.
Laughing at the monster schedule, Slaughter said, "You just have to manage your time and stay in the books as you also try to focus on football. You just can't have other distractions get in your way, which can happen on a college campus."
Slaughter openly credits teammates like Alex Hrebec and Tysyn Hartman in keeping him grounded and focused on the multiple tasks that a student-athlete faces weekly, if not daily.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY: Slaughter is not bashful in pointing to his faith in God as being No. 1 on his list of high-level priorities.
As he says, "You first have to find time to develop your faith, and develop your relationship with your family. Football and academics come after that."
In that order, Blake: Football and then academics?
Laughing, Slaughter said, "No, no. I never forget why I came here and it's for the education."
While wanting to enjoy these final two-plus years of his K-State career, Slaughter says, "I have no idea about my future. I may be a mechanical engineer, or I may want to go on a mission trip somewhere. That's something I've really wanted to do, but just haven't been able to fit in my schedule with all the duties I have at K-State."