Former Wildcats Reunite Before Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
The first K-Stater to be a part of a Super Bowl winning team (Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V), Larson has volunteered with both the Fiesta and Buffalo Wild Wing bowls for the past six years.
This year and last, though, have been among his favorite years volunteering with the bowls as he's had the opportunity to reunite with former teammates and Wildcat fans.
"It is so fun to see the purple back in town," Larson said. "Without K-State being here, there's a fair amount of purple, but nothing like when the Cats are in town."
On Saturday morning, former football players gathered for a Golden Cats luncheon at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Ariz., where they had the opportunity to meet up with old teammates and reminisce back to their years on the gridiron.
From K-State legend Veryl Switzer (1951-53), who is among the highest Wildcats to be drafted, and his son Calvin Switzer (K-State offensive lineman 1981-83) to K-State Athletics Executive Associate Athletics Director Laird Veatch, who played linebacker for the Wildcats from 1991-94, about 12 former players attended Saturday's event.
"We love it. I mean, how much better can it be for us to have them come back here," Ron Rossello, Wildcat running back (1970) and Phoenix native said, "and particularly for them to be in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Even though the Fiesta Bowl is the big bowl, all the talk around here is about the bowl that Cats are in, so that's kind of a nice compliment to Kansas State."
Larson, Rossello and Jerry Lawson (Wildcat fullback, 1970) played together for K-State under head coach Vince Gibson and sat together during the Golden Cats luncheon. The three saw each other last year for the Fiesta Bowl and it didn't take long to start back up right where they had left off.
Each wore purple and told stories of their fondest memories as Wildcats. They laughed and thought back to a different era of K-State football.
"It's about the camaraderie, continuing that camaraderie and remembering the battles we went through together and the successes we had," Larson said. "Being a part of K-State football's first turnaround, sharing that with old teammates is something special."
Larson, Rossello and Lawson were a part of K-State's first major program turnaround. From 1960 to 1967, the Wildcats suffered through three winless seasons and saw a total of only nine wins over the eight-year span, but in 1968 things began to change.
"We were a part of that original turnaround where Purple Pride was starting to do something," Larson continued. "People were starting to fill the stadium, the brand new stadium when it was just the lower bowl, that was full."
In 1968, K-State went 4-6 followed by its best season in over a decade when in 1969 the Wildcats finished 5-5.
"We beat Nebraska at Nebraska, and then it was another 30 years before we would beat them again!" Lawson, who had three touchdowns in that game, said. "Then our senior year (1970) we beat Oklahoma at our place, and they didn't beat them again for almost 30 years."
In 1970, the trio's final year as Wildcats, the team went 6-5.
As they thought back to their years and what they went through, the three couldn't help but compliment the current state of the program.
They played during a time where K-State never saw life in the postseason, so having the opportunity to meet up for a Wildcat bowl game with former players was something they took to heart.
At the Golden Cats luncheon - only hours before the Cats took on Michigan - head coach Bill Snyder showed up, had a few words with the former players and thanked them for playing a significant role in the program's history.
"He's got a lot on his mind today, but to come over for a few minutes to make a point of walking over here to talk to all of us," Rossello said. "That sense of family, I don't remember feeling that when we were playing. K-State was a wonderful place to be, don't misunderstand me, but there wasn't that sense of family. And watching the way he's done that has been wonderful."
When Snyder finished speaking, he was thanked with a warm round of applause and numerous good lucks for his upcoming game.
There was nothing but respect from the former Wildcat football players as Snyder turned and left the luncheon.
"He's a great guy, isn't he?" Larson said with a smile as he leaned on the table.
Larson enjoyed having his Wildcat family in the desert for the second year in a row, and is already looking forward to the next time his team will return.
To read more about Larson's journey as a Wildcat in the late 1960's, you can check out Mark Janssen's story about him from last year by clicking here.