SE: Cats Hit Big 12 Media Circuit

DALLAS — Even if Dante Barnett had given his three captain teammates a full breakdown of what to expect at Big 12 Media Days, it takes the true experience to fully understand. 

All four started their day before 6 a.m., in Manhattan, where they would return about 12 hours later with a wide range of memories. 

After an early-morning workout Tuesday in Manhattan, Kansas State captains Dalton Risner, Jesse Ertz, Jordan Willis and Barnett joined head coach Bill Snyder on a flight to Dallas for the Big 12’s annual media ensemble. 

Once they touched down in Texas, Snyder drove his players to the Omni Dallas Hotel, with navigating assistance from Ertz — the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in last year’s season opener — guiding them to their destination on time.  

“He was perfect, door-to-door,” Snyder said of Ertz’s co-pilot skills. 

From there, the real fun began. 

Snyder and his players were shuffled back and forth for interviews with broadcast companies like Fox Sports, ESPN along with its sister stations, and CBS Sports with promotional video and photo shoots thrown in the mix. With radio, print and digital media interviews squeezed in, the four Wildcats became accustomed to telling others about K-State football.

“I thought it was a cool experience, obviously, to get to sit down and represent the team, tell people about what we have going on and why people should be excited about us,” Ertz, coming off a season-ending knee injury, said, “but I think the biggest thing was probably just the honor of getting to come.”

As Ertz and his teammates would learn from the honor, countless interviews inevitably bring repetitive questions — some less serious than others. 

“There’s been a lot of questions about Pokémon Go,” Risner said, referring to the latest mobile game craze, which he does not participate in. “That one kind of surprised me, but I should’ve expected it, though.” 

Willis, coming off a 9.5-sack season last year, was asked plenty of times what having four defensive players — including himself — on the Preseason All-Big 12 team means for the upcoming season. 

“‘How do you think that’s going to affect us as a team?’ Or, ‘Are those guys going to live up to those expectations?’” the senior heard from a number of reporters. 

His answer: “I said that that’s good that we have those honors, but we’re so far off from worrying about that because of the season that we had last year. We got so much to do to improve before we can even worry about stuff like that.”

Like Ertz, Barnett received an abundance of inquiries about his injury last season. 

“It was fun,” said Barnett, the only current K-State captain who had been to Big 12 Media Days before. “It’s a great experience. I like it.”

Risner, who started all 13 games at center last season, looked forward to the opportunity to share what K-State football is all about from the moment he was named a captain. 

“I love being here, talking to people,” said the sophomore as he looks forward to K-State’s season opener at Stanford on Sept. 2, less than 45 days away. “I have never really had a problem with having to think on my feet and talk to people, it just kind of came naturally, but I think that comes with being confident in what I do, what we do as a team.”

Willis, on the other hand, doesn’t claim to love an endless amount of interviews. Still, the quiet defensive end said the day was enjoyable and was another step toward becoming a well-rounded leader. 

“It’s been a fun experience to kind of express from the players’ perspective about our team and what goes on, and it’s not just from the coach’s perspective or the media’s perspective,” said Willis, who specifically liked his radio interviews. “They were the most fun because they’re a little more into it and joking.”

The day wasn’t all question-and-answer, either. At least, not in the typical sense.  

The highlight of it all, Barnett said, was the social media session with the Big 12. Included in this short segment was a question-and-answer between the players, who had to respond to their feelings about topics, ranging from Taylor Swift to mashed potatoes, with emojis. 

To follow, the four Wildcats — decked out in goofy sunglasses and hats while playing blowup guitars — lip synced “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. 

“That’s the kind of stuff that gets you out of your element,” Barnett said. “You’re not just talking about football, you can be more of yourself and relax. It might get you out of your comfort zone, but at the end of the day it’s a good time.”

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