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Spring Football at its Finest
K-State's Jake Waters helps Kaiden Schroeder, 8 years old, run for a touchdown during the Purple and White Spring Game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on April 26, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
April 27, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Yesterday afternoon, football was back in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Fans filled The Bill for the annual Purple vs. White Spring Game and were surprised with an afternoon filled with far more than just the game.
From returning stars to special announcements to an emotional play from one of the Wildcats' biggest little fans - April 26 was an afternoon to remember.
The Purple team came out on top with a 23-13 win over the White team, but K-State head coach Bill Snyder said he was not happy with the way his No. 1's on the Purple squad performed.
"I don't think we were the kind of football team that I wanted to see today. There were some good things, bad things, but the White team, I thought, collectively played better than the Purple team did," Snyder explained.
Overall, the Purple team committed four penalties for 35 yards as opposed to the White team's two penalties for just 10 yards.
On the offensive end, quarterback Jake Waters went 26-of-38 for 227 yards, eight carries for 38 yards and had one touchdown and one interception for the Purple team, while the White team saw both Joe Hubener (11-16-0, 124 yards) and Jesse Ertz (9-13-0, 43 yards) at the quarterback position.
"I agree with coach totally," said Waters after the game. "You have to give credit to the White defense, but we just didn't come out prepared enough to play. We didn't play well, but we can use that as motivation to do better going into the summer."
The defense was led by 2013 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Ryan Mueller, who tallied three sacks and four tackles while defensive back Randall Evans led the team with eight tackles and linebacker Charmeachealle Moore wasn't far behind with his six tackles and two sacks.
"There's always room for improvement no matter what the outcome is," said linebacker Jonathan Truman who finished the game with six tackles. "I just think that the game in general shows that we have a lot of competitive guys and we have great depth on our team. We had a lot of guys getting a lot of reps today and they showed they could compete."
For a complete recap and stats from yesterday afternoon's game, click here.
KAIDEN SCHROEDER - MVP
Towards the end of the third quarter, a special announcement was made over the stadium's speakers: "Now entering the game at running back is No. 44 Kaiden Schroeder!"
As Schroeder's name was announced throughout the stadium, the eight-year-old ran on to the field with his favorite player and good friend, defensive end Ryan Mueller, to meet up with quarterback Jake Waters.
Once on the field, the ball was snapped and Waters handed it to Schroeder who then rushed it 30 yards past the White team's defense into the end zone.
The players hoisted Kaiden into the air in celebration of his first-ever Wildcat touchdown, and none were more excited than Mueller.
You see, Mueller and Schroeder's relationship goes back, way back to when the two met in January of 2013. After the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, Mueller heard about Schroeder over a message board post and personally delivered the little Wildcat fan a Fiesta Bowl No. 44 jersey - and that was the start of a special, inspiring relationship.
Five years ago, in May of 2009, Schroeder was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. With his hospital room decked out in K-State décor, Schroder has been through more than any child should have to endure, and over the course of this past year, the big, tough K-State football players have learned a thing or two from him about being strong.
"He's touched so many lives on this football team. The only way I can describe it is that he's one of God's angels; there's no way around it," said offensive lineman B.J. Finney. "That kid, you can look at him and see he knows things, but there's still that kid to him, that innocence. The change that has happened with guys he's affected and changed their lives, he's touched me, and I never thought something would move me as much as he did. That kid's a huge blessing and I was so happy to do that for him."
Schroeder went to his first football game at K-State on Nov. 23, 2013, as Mueller's special guest, and yesterday afternoon he had the unique opportunity to celebrate his touchdown thanks to his favorite player. Mueller said he went into Snyder's office earlier this week to talk about putting Schroeder in the game.
"I was little nervous because the spring game is very serious and you don't like to mess up Coach Snyder's routine," explained Mueller, "but I pitched the idea to him, he wrote it down in his notebook and circled it real big and said, 'We'll definitely get something done,' and that was just awesome."
On the event, Snyder said, "There are a lot of young people who they bring into our program, and this happed to be one who was going through some difficult times. It was fun for him and enjoyable for all of our players and his family. You love seeing things like that, you certainly do."
Waters, who helped guide Kaiden into the end zone as the White team's defense fell to the ground around them, said he enjoyed seeing Schroeder's smile.
"That was the highlight of the day for me, seeing him," explained Waters. "I was in the backfield with him, and he was a wide-eyed kind of nervous. It was so special and I'm just so happy that Coach Snyder let us do that."
"It was awesome, a great experience, especially for Kaiden," Mueller said with a smile. "I can't thank John Currie, Coach Snyder and people of the athletics department here who did a fantastic job. It was just awesome. I'm so glad that they were supportive in it, a lot of credit goes to them. It was something Kaiden will remember for the rest of his life."
Click here for the link to the video of Schroeder running in his touchdown.
Ryan Mueller and Kaiden Schroeder chat before Kaiden heads onto the field for his play at the k-State Spring Game on April 26, 2013
VANIER FOOTBALL COMPLEX AND NORTH END ZONE EXPANSION
Just before kickoff, K-State athletics director John Currie announced the Wildcats' next facility project: an expansion to the Vanier Football Complex and North Stadium. The third phase of a six-step master plan, the new project is estimated to cost $65 million and enhance, not only the Wildcat football players' collegiate experience, but also all student-athletes at K-State.
"This is a day that's been a long time and coming and is a huge step forward for us," said Currie at halftime of the spring game. "It represents another side of Kansas State University and Kansas State Athletics' commitment to be among the top tier of intercollegiate athletics. We certainly have made enormous progress over the last five years: we've completed $125 million in new athletic facility construction benefitting all 16 of our sports and over 400 student-athletes. We're very proud of the progress that we've made."
The new addition to Bill Snyder Family Stadium will feature an updated weight room and training facility and a new state-of-the-art Academic Learning Center, two things Currie noted of high importance. The Academic Learning Center will be more than twice the size of the current facility while the 18,000-square foot Olympic-quality strength and conditioning center will include multi-story ceilings with natural light and a nutrition center or "fueling station" for all student-athletes to utilize.
"This building, this next phase of our project is really focused on two critical things," continued Currie. "No. 1, it's our student-athlete experience and the student-athletes at Kansas State, and, No. 2, it's that grass roots tradition that Kansas State University has, that fan base that crosses all socioeconomic specters of this state and around the country. We're going to keep that same family grass route sections that we have in the end zones that's become one of the calling cards of the Kansas State football experience."
No tax or tuition dollars will be used as the facility will be funded by the generosity of K-Staters through leadership gifts, grass roots fan support and other department revenues.
Click here for a full video of the Vanier Football Challenge and here for the full website on the project.
*Don't miss tomorrow's K-State Sports Extra with more on K-State Football's Spring Game. Tomorrow's story will highlight yesterday's honorary coaches - former Wildcat greats Terrence Newman and Darren Sproles.