K-State captains prepare for new season

Last April, this season's captains were voted on by teammates and announced before the 2013 Purple/White Spring Game, and from returning leaders to inspirational speakers, they each bring different dynamics and unique leadership styles both on and off the field.

This season the returning 2012 captains, safety Ty Zimmerman and offensive linesman B.J. Finney, are joined by wide receiver Tyler Lockett and linebackers Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter.

"We're a close knit group of guys," Zimmerman said about the captains. "We're all very close on the team, but we've got a good core group of guys that are kind of the voice of the team. We've got a lot of leaders on the team that could have been in this position, so it's really humbling to have been nominated for it. We've got two guys on offense and three on defense, so we're trying to spearhead the whole thing and get this season off the right way."

Zimmerman, Walker and Slaughter will look to lead their teammates on the defensive end of the field. 

After losing nearly every starter from last season's defense, Zimmerman said the biggest difference between this season and last will be getting the newer and less experienced players up to speed.

"Being on the defensive side, we've got a whole lot of new faces," Zimmerman said. "We've only got a couple starters returning from last year, so the major difference is trying to lead these younger guys." 

Zimmerman was a captain last season and finished the year with five interceptions, while he became the first Wildcat since at least 1989 to record interceptions in four games in a row (Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia). Zimmerman is currently on four preseason watch lists - the Bednarik Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Thorpe Award.

Walker played in only eight games last season before suffering a season-ending injury in the win over Texas Tech. Though he spent a large amount of time on the sidelines his junior season with his injury, he found his own ways to help his team to success by making the best of his bad situation. Now, after fully recovering from his injury, Walker is ready to get back to being a leader on the field. 

Through careful consideration, Slaughter decided to redshirt the 2012 season. It would have been his final year of eligibility and it would have been spent as backup to former captain Arthur Brown. With both himself and his team in mind, Slaughter took the redshirt and now, with Brown gone, has the opportunity to lead his teammates on the field.

"It was special. It was an honor having my teammates vote for me captain," Slaughter said. "I've viewed it as a responsibility, that a lot of teammates are relying on me to be there, be accountable, be dependable. I just want to be able to do a good job for my team, to help lead them in the right direction towards a successful season."

As for the offensive captains, both Finney and Lockett saw successes between the white lines last season and are ready to lead again.

Finney was captain on the offense with former K-State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, so he's not new to knowing what it takes to be a leader.

"It's a huge honor and a huge blessing to be elected by my teammates and to be chosen as a captain," Finney said. "They feel like I represent the program well, I kind of epitomize what Coach Snyder wants, so again, it's a huge blessing to be a team captain once but twice is even bigger." 

Lockett enters his junior year with a 33.8-yard career kickoff return average and four career kickoff-return touchdowns, ranking second in both K-State and Big 12 history in those categories.

His first time as a captain, Lockett said he is humbled by being chosen by his teammates. His hopes are to lead by example and let his solid work ethic do the talking.

"I didn't know if the players were going to vote for me or not because there's a lot of people on this team who could have been captain," Lockett said. "To even be brought up into this, to assume this responsibility, I just look at it as a great opportunity and a great experience. I'm not somebody that talks a lot and tries to tell people what to do. I try to show people the way to go by my actions, so when I do talk every now and then, people will be able to listen because my actions will line up with what I'm saying."

Though the five are close-knit, they each have their differences, and Lockett said he believes those differences will only help strengthen the team this year. 

"We all have different perceptions about how we think things should go," Lockett explained. "I think that really helps us come together as a team. Each one of us has had to go through different adversities in our lives, so just to be able to hear their stories, it really helps you pick them up and show them the true meaning of family.

"If one fights, we all fight, if one falls, we all fall.  I think that that's the dynamic that we're bringing to the table for the team."

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