SE: Football Friday: Dynamic Leadership Crucial for 2015 Captains

July 24, 2015

By Kelly McHugh

This year’s K-State football captains bring a plethora of experience to the playing field. They’ve been through the fire; they’ve worked their way through the ranks and have earned the respect of their fellow teammates along the way.

The group is made up of five seniors – offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, safety Dante Barnett, defensive tackle Travis Britz, cornerback Morgan Burns and wide receiver/special teams player Stanton Weber – who have all already begun working together to become the best leaders they can be.

“They’re good young guys,” said head coach Bill Snyder earlier this week. “They have that value system in place. They care. They do the right things. These are young guys who have come through the system and who have done well. They’re willing and committed to the value system that we’re all about and their teammates understand that, they respect that.”

When it comes to their leadership style, each captain is different, but that’s what makes this group special, explains Barnett.

“We all bring different aspects to the field,” said Barnett. “Stanton is the genius; he works hard and Morgan has the speed. If we were going to a workout, Stanton and Morgan are the ones leading the way. I’m more of a laid back type of guy, I lead by example, and Cody and Travis are the same way. We all have different aspects to our leadership, but I think that’s why it works so well.”

Barnett is the only player in the group with experience as a captain as he’s entering his second-consecutive season in the position. Barnett enters his senior campaign coming off of a solid junior year where he tallied 77 tackles, 11 defended passes and three interceptions.

He recently was named to the watch lists for five national awards, including the 2015 Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team.

“Being a captain, it’s big,” continued Barnett. “It’s big because your fellow teammates are watching you. When they don’t know what to do, they’re going to look at what you’re doing at the time. We have to always be on our game and set a good example for our teammates.” 

Like Barnett, Whitehair describes himself as a quiet leader. However, he knows in order to be fully effective on the football field, he will have to step up his game.

“I’ve been a leader by example, that’s been kind of who I am,” explained Whitehair, “but lately I’ve had to step up in my vocal leadership and really demand excellence, especially with all the young guys we have.”

Also like Barnett, Whitehair was named to this year’s Preseason All-Big 12 team. Following a season where he was one of the best and most versatile offensive linemen in the conference, Whitehair has also earned Preseason All-America honors from Athlon.

“This is kind of a different group,” said Whitehair, a native of Abilene, Kansas. “We’re all pretty new to being captains. We’re younger guys who grew up in the program, so we’re a group that stepped into this position. We couldn’t have done it without our older guys preparing us for this step, so we look forward to leading this team this season.”

Also hailing from the Midwest, Britz, Burns and Weber have each grown up knowing the K-State way and what it takes – on and off the field – to be successful in a Bill Snyder program.

“We really appreciate each other’s strengths, and we do a good job of collaborating and decision making,” explained Weber. “I’m really happy with the group. All of them are great character guys; they focus on the right things. We’re all different, but that’s kind of the beauty of the group." 

Weber, an Overland Park, Kansas, native, has been a key special teams contributor each of the last three seasons. He’s made 12 career special teams tackles in his last 33 games, including a career-best two stops against both Iowa State and Oklahoma State in 2014. He is a two-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 performer and was recently named President of K-State Athletics’ Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). 

A two-time Honorable Mention All-Big 12 player, Britz started the first 10 games of 2014 and totaled 27 tackles, including five for loss while also holding a school-record-tying five career blocked kicks. Though his junior season was cut short because of injury, the Harrisonville, Missouri, native has now recovered and is ready to make an impact in 2015.

Burns, a Wichita, Kansas, native, started every game at cornerback in 2014. He recorded 55 tackles, including three for loss and a sack while also picking off three passes. Boasted as one of the team’s fastest players, Burns will be a crucial piece to the dynamic Wildcat defense this fall.

“It’s been really fun because these are guys that I came in with four years ago,” said Burns. “We all came on the same summer, so we’re all really close. We’ve been through a lot of the same things; we’ve experienced a lot of the same things. We’re all just really good friends.”

This year’s team-chosen captains are ready to take the reins and lead this year’s Wildcat football team to success. Though they’re a good group of guys, Snyder said they are still growing.

“(Their leadership) needs to be dynamic,” said Snyder. “When you visit with them, you see a lot of really good young guys, guys you’d say, ‘I’d take him as my son any day,’ and anybody would. But one of the things we have to be better at is a dynamic leadership. It’s the vocal, the demanding leadership, and sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone in order to show that kind of leadership. That’s where they need to continue to enhance their capabilities.”

With the team’s month-long fall camp just around the corner (players report on August 5) the Wildcat captains will soon have the opportunity to put their leadership to the test.

“It’s been fun. It’s always been a goal of ours to lead our team, to be captains,” said Whitehair. “We’re going to rally around our guys, and we will, hopefully, have a successful season.”

K-State begins its 2015 slate on Saturday, September 5, at 6:10 p.m., as the Wildcats host South Dakota at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The remaining six home games feature five opponents that advanced to bowl games in 2014, including a pair of top-10 teams in TCU (No. 3/3) and Baylor (No. 7/8).

A limited number of single-game tickets are still available for the 2015 season. Fans can purchase tickets online by visiting www.k-statesports.com/tickets or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-221-CATS.

 

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.