K-State Celebrates Senior Day
A memorable bunch, to say the least, this year's senior class is made up of hard-working team leaders who have spent the past four or five years giving their all to the K-State football program.
In return for its hard work, the class is among the most successful in K-State history with a 37-12 record, five consecutive bowl berths and a Big 12 title in 2012.
"How would I assess this class? I think they're good young people; they're young guys who are committed to what we're about, committed to the program, committed to Kansas State," said head coach Bill Snyder. "They take pride in being here. They're young guys who work extremely hard and guys who are very willing to sacrifice. They possess those kinds of values that are significant to our program."
From offensive lineman B.J. Finney, who has started every game over the past four years, to record-breaking Tyler Lockett, who is among K-State's most elite wide receivers, this year's class is one made up of stories this generation of Wildcat fans will remember forever.
"It's been a blessing, it truly has been, there's no other way around it, no other way to state it," said Finney, who is one of just four active players in the FBS with 49 straight career starts. "Being able to stay healthy and to play as many games as I have here for this program, it's very humbling and awesome."
What also makes Finney's story remarkable, like so many others in this year's senior class, is that he began his journey as a walk-on.
"Toughness, grit, determination, perseverance, a whole lot of things that you'd want to see in a football team," explained Finney when asked how to describe his senior class. "Our first year here was K-State's first bowl game since '06, and we took it upon ourselves to reach a bowl game each and every year and to keep improving. I think with my class, since it's a big walk-on class with a lot of in-state guys, you have that level of pride, that sense of want and drive."
Along with Finney, fellow team captains Ryan Mueller of Leawood, Kansas, and Jonathan Truman from Kechi, Kansas, also began their Wildcat careers as walk-ons.
"We're just a walk-on bunch, I guess" said Mueller, whose 11.5 sacks last season were tied for program-best in a single season. "We're kind of Coach Snyder's first, hand-picked guys that he recruited since he was back. He's known for bringing in walk-ons, and if you look at the captains and the player reps that we have on this team, five out of the seven of us are former walk-ons. That's just a true testament of this team and it shows the bulk of what we're made out of."
Truman was named a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's top player who began his career as a walk-on, and is also a Wildcat who turned his opportunity into a success story.
Truman's leadership has been crucial to the Wildcats' defensive success so far this season. Now, on the brink of his final home game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Truman can't help but reflect back on his time at K-State.
"When you're going through these four or five years of being here, it seems like a long time," Truman explained, "but once you're here, you wonder where the time has gone. It is what it is and I'm not that much of an emotional person, but it's special. We have something special here."
Adding to the talent of the senior class is the talented wide receiver duo of Lockett and Curry Sexton. In K-State's last three games, the two have combined for a total of 836 receiving yards. Both came to the K-State program and got on the field right away as freshmen, and both have a long K-State history dating back to before their time on the field.
A native of Abilene, Kansas, Sexton grew up going to K-State football games every Saturday, and, now on the field, he has family watching at every game. At this weekend's game, Sexton said he will have somewhere between 30 and 40 family members in the stands.
"It hasn't hit me yet," said Sexton on playing his final game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. "I don't know if it will (hit me) because I've spent so many Saturdays in this stadium. So for this to be my last one on the field, it's going to be a special moment, but it hasn't really hit me yet."
And when it comes to Lockett, his K-State football history dates back to before he was born.
Lockett's dad, Kevin, played football at K-State from 1993-96 and became one of the best wide receivers in school history, and Tyler's ties to the program didn't just stop with his dad. His uncle, Aaron, also played wide receiver at K-State from 1998-2001. Both Kevin and Aaron stamped their names in the K-State record books, and, during his successful four-year career, Tyler has joined them (to take a look at Lockett's complete records and read more about him, click here.)
"It feels like it's been a long time, but it's only been four years," said Lockett of his time at K-State. "Some people who came in with me, they redshirted so they have an extra year before they get to walk down on Senior Day, but I can honestly say, I have enjoyed every moment of being here."
Though he's been with the Wildcats two seasons, quarterback Jake Waters, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, will leave his mark on the K-State football program.
Currently ranked No. 1 in program history in career passing efficiency (152.76), Waters has thrown for 2,569 yards and 14 touchdowns on 188-of-295 aim in 2014. A Maxwell and O'Brien Award semifinalist, playing Division I football at a high level was always a dream of Waters, so today, as he steps on his dream field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the final time, emotions will be running high.
"It's going to be weird," said Waters with a smile. "I never really thought I would have a Senior Day, so to be able to be the starting quarterback of a Division I team and to play on Senior Day, I never would have thought that three years ago. It's going to be special knowing that all of my hard work is kind of a culmination of it. It's going to be a special day."
Though today's game will be a special one for this year's senior class, the Wildcats have not overlooked Kansas, a team that is 3-8, including a 1-7 mark in the Big 12.
"KU has been playing very good football under Coach (Clint) Bowen," said Finney. "The guys are motivated, and you can see it in the way they play. It's very apparent and they've been doing great things over there."
The Jayhawks enter today's game following a 44-7 loss to Oklahoma, however the team showed the nation exactly what it was capable of two weeks ago in its matchup against TCU. Kansas nearly completed an upset over the No. 5 Horned Frogs, but fell short, losing 34-30.
While Kansas is showing continual improvement on the field, K-State and its roster with 54 Kansas natives know the importance of the Sunflower Showdown and hope to keep the Governor's Cup for the sixth consecutive year.
"We preach all the time about treating every game the same because, in the end, they all mean the same to us," explained Truman. "So there's some added motivation with this game, especially with it being senior day and knowing its going to be the last time these seniors play in this stadium. We just want to do our absolute best."
For more on today's game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, click here.
K-State's 22 seniors who will be recognized prior to kickoff today include: Joseph Bonugli (DB), Valentino Coleman (DL), Laton Dowling (DE), Randall Evans (DB), B.J. Finney (OL), Taylor Godinet (DL), Weston Heibert (DB), Kason Hostrup (OL), Dakorey Johnson (LB), Drew Liddle (OL), Tyler Lockett (WR), Ryan Mueller (DE), Zach Nemechek (TE), DeAndre Roberts (DL), DeMarcus Robinson (RB), Dylan Schellenberg (DB), Curry Sexton (WR), David Smith (LB), Zach Trujillo (TE), Jonathan Truman (LB), Jake Waters (QB), and Adam Weber (FB).