Hometown Heroes

For most student-athletes, competing in collegiate athletics means saying goodbye to friends and family and moving away to a new town to compete. However, for a few Wildcats, they barley had to leave their back yards.
Eleven of K-State's nearly 450 student-athletes this past year were Manhattan natives and have had the chance to compete in front of friends and family in their home town.
"It's really nice having the support system here," explained Burton, a 2012 graduate of Manhattan High School who helped the Indians' football team to an 11-1 record in 2011. "A lot of people I grew up with have seen me grow from a little guy to where I am now. It's great having those kinds of people around. It's like the saying, 'It takes a village,' having these people here to keep me in line and keep helping me out getting to where I want to be. It's really great."
After redshirting his first season at K-State, Burton saw action in nine games during the 2013 season. After a successful spring where he competed with the White team in K-State's annual Purple vs. White Spring game and grabbed six catches for 48 yards, his hometown fans can look forward to seeing him in action again this fall.
Like Burton, Manhattan native Tristan McCarty, who graduated last December, enjoyed having her community's support during her collegiate years as she competed with the Wildcats volleyball team in Ahearn Field House.
"I think every kids' initial thought is they want to go somewhere else," began McCarty, a 2009 graduate of Manhattan High School. "You want to get out of the town you grew up in, and then you start looking and maybe that's not actually what you're looking for. I think the value of being able to have your family and friends come watch you play and support they give you is so overlooked."
Looking back at her career, McCarty cherishes the time she has been able to spend with her family, and said having her mom close by was not only good for her, but for her teammates as well.
"One of the other things I loved about it was being able to have my mom kind of be a mom away from home for the girls whose moms weren't close by," said McCarty. "I loved being able to share that with them. They'd come over for dinner or my mom would come up and bring treats. I know she kind of stepped up as momma bear for a few girls. That was something that was important to me to share the woman that my mom is."
McCarty finished her Wildcat career seventh on K-State's all-time career sets played list with 438 sets and missed only nine sets during her four-year career. She graduated from K-State in December 2013 with a degree in marketing and now works for Grapevine Designs in Wichita, Kansas.
K-State baseball senior Blair DeBord knew from a young age K-State was the place for him. He was a Wildcat baseball fan long before the program saw the successes it has seen over the past few years and knew he wanted to be a part of the team that turned the program around.
"One of the reasons I came to K-State was because I wanted to put K-State on the map baseball wise," began DeBord, a 2009 graduate of Manhattan High School, "and with last year's success and some of the preseason rankings we had this year, I feel like K-State is more relevant now. Obviously this year didn't go how we wanted it to, but K-State now, because of our Big 12 Championship last year and going to the Super Regional, I mean, we played on ESPN last year. I never thought going to K-State I would be able to do that, so it's been a lot of fun and K-State will always have a special spot in my heart."
During his five years at K-State DeBord - who redshirted the 2011 season due to injury - started 192 games and batted .294 with 104 RBI. In 2013 he became the first K-State catcher in the history of the program to be named First Team All-Big 12. He graduated from K-State on May 17 with a degree in marketing, and, like he hoped when he came to K-State as a freshman, has left a lasting impression on the program.
Competing collegiately in their hometown is fun for the student-athletes and it's fun for the local fans who have followed these competitors from a young age.
"I see a lot of people around town that I ether went to high school with or people who are my former elementary school teachers," laughed K-State men's golf senior Tyler Norris, a 2010 graduate of Manhattan High School. "They always ask how I'm doing or say 'You've grown up so fast!' so probably not losing that connection with all these people has been the best part."
Like DeBord, Norris also graduated from K-State on May 17, and is headed to Kansas City, Missouri, where he will put his financing degree to good use as he recently began working with Lockton, the world's largest privately owned, independent insurance brokerage firm, as an associate account manager.
From home cooked meals to competing in front of friends, family and neighbors, playing a college sport in your hometown definitely has its perks.
On the best part about playing college football in his home town, Burton laughed and said, "The laundry. The laundry is great. I hear guys all the time struggling about getting laundry done, and I just take mine home to my mom."
2013-14 K-State student-athletes from Manhattan:
Sophomore wide receiver Deante Burton
Freshman wide receiver Taylor Hilgers
Sophomore offensive lineman Jason Lierz
Men's Golf
Senior (graduated) Tyler Norris
Freshman Kayla Brock
Freshman Courtney Faucett
Junior Abby Weaver
Track and Field
Junior thrower Ivan Hartung
Senior (graduated) graduated Blair DeBord
Sophomore outfielder Brooks DeBord
Junior outfielder Kyle Speer
Senior (graduated) defensive setter/libero Tristan McCarty