K-State Celebrates Fan Appreciation Day

By Kelly McHugh

MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State football fans showed up in full force to get their first look at the 2014 K-State football team Saturday evening at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Fan Appreciation Day in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

With the opportunity to check out an hour of practice followed by interview sessions with K-State coaches and players, the 2014 football season felt just a little bit closer to the 3,000-plus fans in attendance.

"We just want to thank you guys for coming out and supporting us day in and day out," said captain wide receiver Tyler Lockett when introduced to the crowd of Wildcat fans in attendance. "We've been really working hard and trying to prepare for the season coming up, and when we say family, we don't just mean our team, but we mean each and every one of you as well."

Voice of the Wildcats Wyatt Thompson opened the evening by introducing K-State head coach Bill Snyder. Snyder then introduced each of K-State's 2014 seniors, and with each and every name, fans applauded louder and louder - the excitement for the upcoming football season built greater by the minute.

"Coach Snyder talks to us all the time about surrounding ourselves with people who genuinely care, and I'm proud to say, every time this team comes out on the field we're surrounding ourselves with a whole stadium of people who genuinely care," said captain linebacker Jonathan Truman. "So thank you all very much."

The stadium was filled with purple as Wildcat fans from around the state traveled to Bill Snyder Family Stadium to watch practice and meet the 2014 squad.

"We're excited," said Joe Kennedy, a former Manhattan resident who recently moved to Pittsburg, Kansas. "It always gives you a great feeling to come back to this stadium, hear Bill talk. It really is like a family. It's tremendous; we just love it."

Kennedy laughed as he was interrupted by his grandson, Creag Kamerick, who happily announced he got another autograph from one of the K-State players.

"It was pretty cool!" Kamerick said about watching an hour of practice. He then pointed to the Collin Klein autograph on his football and let out another smile.

Kennedy and his wife, Sharon, said they left their new home in Pittsburg earlier in the afternoon to pick up their grandson who lives in Wichita before coming to Manhattan for the evening.

"It was a lot easier when we lived here!" laughed Sharon, "We've been K-State fans since 1968."

Also making the trip to Manhattan were Travis and Kristi Kurtz. Both K-State grads, the two traveled nearly four hours from their home in Paola, Kansas, for the event.

"We're excited. It should be a fun season," said Travis, "and if it's anything like last year, we should just get better and better. Not a lot of people seem to be talking about us this year, which is great - we're better as the underdogs."

A true Wildcat family, Travis and Kristi met on the field of Bill Snyder Family Stadium during their time as K-State students. She was a trainer for the football team and he was Willie the Wildcat, and today, they had the opportunity to introduce their son, Beckett Willie, to K-State football as well.

Despite the drive, the Kurtzs said they will be back at Bill Snyder Family Stadium often this year for football - and their anniversary is Sept. 18, so you can bet what they'll be doing.

"The Auburn game, that's on our four-year anniversary," smiled Kristi. "So we'll be spending four hours in the car on our way to the game. We better win, otherwise it might be an unhappy ride home!"

In the end, the nearly 3,000 fans in attendance left the stadium with smiling faces, ready for the 2014 season to kick off on Aug. 30.

And, of course, the players had a good time, too.

"Giving the fans a taste of what we go through in practice, it's just a chance to give back to the community," said offensive lineman B.J. Finney. "We love it; people coming in and seeing us practice, signing autographs and taking pictures with kids and their families. It's our time to give back to the community, and that's something that we truly like to do. It's something that Coach Snyder drives home in this program; giving back for the position that we're in. We just love that opportunity."