August 12, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
A year ago, linebacker Blake Slaughter had a tough decision to make.
It was August 2012, the month before his senior season would begin, and Slaughter was suddenly faced with a choice that would affect his collegiate football career immensely.
That choice was whether or not to redshirt the 2012 season.
Slaughter, who received his first bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from K-State in May 2013, said he sat down and weighed the pros and cons. It was play one season as backup to former K-State linebacker and All-American Arthur Brown, or take the redshirt and use the year on the sidelines to grow and help his team.
He chose the latter.
"Coach Snyder had already talked to the coaches about it a little bit, so the buzz was going on there," Slaughter said about when he first found out about the idea. "Coach Cox and I kind of talked about it, kind of played through it, and towards the end of camp (in August 2012) we decided that was the best route for everyone.
"If you look at the linebacker corps last year, we had a bunch of really good players and then we had a lot of guys that were leaving before this year, so it was kind of a win-win situation."
While it wasn't always easy for Slaughter, he made the best out of a difficult situation.
He watched. He learned. He contributed, helped the team, in every way he could.
"I have a lot of respect for what he did," safety Ty Zimmerman said about Slaughter, "how unselfish of an act that was. A lot of guys in his situation would probably shut down, kind of get mad and not even care, but he had the team first in mind and has always been a hard worker. He's been here since I've been here so I've been close with him for a while now, and I'm looking forward to what he's going to do on the field building up on all that anticipation from the year off."
Slaughter's hard work didn't go unnoticed, though, and by April 2013, his teammates voted him one of K-State's five captains for the 2013 season.
"It was special," Slaughter smiled, "It was an honor having my teammates vote for me for that. I've viewed it as a responsibility. A lot of teammates are relying on me to be there, be accountable, be dependable, I just want to be able to do a good job for my team, to help lead them in the right direction towards a successful season."
Along with his ability to lead, Slaughter is a seasoned veteran who, from 2009-2011, saw time in a total of 33 games.
But he's far more than just a leader when it comes to relationships with his teammates. Like Zimmerman, linebacker Tre Walker said Slaughter was among the first people he met when he started playing football at K-State.
"Me and Blake, we're like brothers. Blood, sweat and tears, the first day I got here Blake was here and he's been by my side through everything," linebacker Tre Walker said about Slaughter. "It's a spiritual thing we have as well. We keep each other accountable, make sure we're both doing the right thing, and I feel like you need that, because at the end of the day it's not so much about football as it is your family and your brothers."
Slaughter, Walker and Zimmerman will be looked to as leaders both on and off the field this season as the trio were voted K-State's defensive captains.
But what makes these guys different from other players taking over the role of captain is the fact that all three spent a considerable amount of time last season watching their team from the sidelines.
Eight games into the 2012 season, on October 27, Walker's season came to an end after tearing his ACL in the Wildcats' 55-24 win over Texas Tech. Two games later, on November 10, Zimmerman also suffered an injury during K-State's 23-10 win over TCU. Zimmerman wound up missing the final two games of the regular season.
Along with Slaughter's redshirt, the trio had time to study the game from a vantage point last year that many captains haven't experienced - from outside the lines.
"They had a lot of time off to kind of regroup mentally," Zimmerman said about Slaughter and Walker. "They probably saw a lot of things. That was the case for me. You see a lot of things when you're not playing that you don't see when you're on the field, so the mental part of the game is going to be there for them having that year off."
While all three missed playing time last year for different causes, none are more excited to get on the field than Slaughter.
August 30, K-State's opening game against North Dakota State at 7:30 pm in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, is a day he's been waiting and working towards for over a year.
"I'm just excited to be out there," Slaughter said, talking about the upcoming season.
It was like talking to a kid about Christmas - he just couldn't stop smiling.
"I want to show my teammates how much I care, how much I've bled for them over the years and how much they really mean to me. I feel like my performance out there on the field is for a lot of people - it's for the fans, for my family, but mostly, for my brothers. I just want to be there and give everything I have for them."
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