May 20, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
DODGE CITY, Kansas - Before heading West for the week with K-State Athletics, Voice of the Wildcats Wyatt Thompson told me the best part about going out on the Catbacker Tour was meeting so many great people who simply love K-State.
Well, after my first day on the "Western Swing" - a five-day trip where K-State Athletics and the K-State Alumni Association partner up and visit a different town in Western Kansas each day - I have found that is absolutely true.
Yesterday, I traveled with a group of K-State student-athletes and staff to Dodge City for a day filled with golf, kids activities and an evening banquet where Dodge City's most passionate Wildcat fans had the opportunity to meet with some of their favorite K-State student-athletes and coaches.
From the second we arrived at the Dodge City Country Club to play golf, we were surrounded by passionate K-Staters ready to have a great day.
"The golfing is a big draw," explained Rob Sowers, the man in charge of the Dodge City Catbackers Club. "You have the same golfers every year because they like to golf with the K-State people, and it doesn't matter what K-Stater, they just like to golf with somebody. That's the way we get more golfers each year because they go out and say, 'Hey, I got to golf with Curry Sexton or Will Spradling,' and that's really neat."
On the course I had the opportunity to golf alongside Kevin Gwaltney, president of Diamond Roofing, and his co-worker brother-in-law, Sean Mead. Along with K-State Athletics' associate director of development Josh McCowan, we shot a few under par in the scramble and had a great day.
Both K-State Alumni and Dodge City natives, Gwaltney and Mead have been attending Catbacker events since they were kids, and Gwaltney said that when he was 17 his dad - a big time K-State fan - introduced him to Bill Snyder. We traded stories about K-State and talked about Manhattan, and by the end of the Golf Scramble, McCowan and I had made two new K-Stater friends.
After golf, we headed over to the Dodge City YMCA for the Catbacker Kids Clinic.
Though this year is the first year the Catbacker clubs will host Kids Clinics, the outcome at the Dodge City YMCA was great. Nearly 30 kids showed up to shoot hoops and throw the football with K-State student-athletes. (Stay tuned for more on this Kids Clinics in tomorrow's K-State Sports Extra)
Student-ahletes traveling on this year's Western Swing are football players B.J. Finney, Curry Sexton, Laton Dowling and Cody Whitehair while men's basketball players Will Spradling and D.J. Johnson and equestrian's Kara Guy and Jesse Johnson are also along for the ride.
"People look forward to this every year," continued Sowers. "They come out for it because of the student-athletes and the coaches, that's the big draw for everybody."
Finally, highlighting the evening was Dowling. A native of Dodge City, the 6-foot-3 defensive end played in all of K-State's 13 games last season as a junior where he recorded three tackles, including 2.5 for loss and an eight-yard sack.
Dowling spent the day visiting with friends and neighbors from his hometown and, at the evening's banquet, had the opportunity to share his thoughts with all 230 K-Staters in attendance.
"It's awesome," Dowling began. "It's just awesome to see all these people I know and to play golf with all these people I know. It's awesome to come back home and see all the support that Kansas State has from where I'm from. I was a K-State fan since I was a little guy. I went to all the games, so seeing a football player would have been the coolest thing ever when I was little. So to be here, it's a great experience."
Today, K-State Athletics is visiting Garden City. We will begin the day with a golf tournament at Southwind Country Club followed by the Kids Clinic and evening banquet at the Clarion Hotel.
AN EXCITING FEW DAYS FOR FINNEY
It's been an exciting few days for K-State football offensive lineman B.J. Finney. The senior and 2014 captain graduated K-State with a degree in history this past weekend and yesterday, was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list.
Despite the busy few days, Finney, a native of Andale, Kansas, decided to spend the week on the Western Swing visiting with K-State fans for the second-straight year.
"It's really easy to talk and make friends out here with the K-State family and all supporters that we have," said Finney at last night's banquet. "Everyone wants to come up and talk to us, it's just real easy. Being on the Western Swing, it was really fun the first time, so I figured I'd come again. It's been a lot of fun talking to people about football and relaying some more information to everyone."