SE: Who Says 'Kansas' Isn't a Football State?

Ty Zimmerman was one of 18 starters on Saturday who played high school or junior college football in the state of Kansas.

Sept. 19, 2011

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By Mark Janssen

Kansas State’s football team is one of numerous dreams do come true stories.

No, not just Friday night heroes getting a chance to play Big 12 football at K-State, but Kansas products, those from the Sunflower State, now playing at the school where they once had heroes clad in purple and white.

For Curry Sexton, it was Lamar Chapman; for Jordan Voelker, it was Ell Roberson.

While the state of Kansas is not known as a hotbed for high school football talent, check out K-State’s starting lineup this past Saturday in a 37-0 win over Kent State.

On offense, there was Brodrick Smith, WR, Garden City;  Nick Puetz, OG, Salina; B.J. Finney, C, Andale; Braden Wilson, FB, Smith Center; Travis Tannahill, TE, Overland Park; and Chris Harper, WR, Wichita. And don’t forget to include Colten Freeze, OG,  Liberty, Mo., and Clyde Aufner, OT, Raymore, Mo., from the Kansas City metro area.

On defense, there was Voelker, DE, Newton; Arthur Brown, LB, Wichita; Tre Walker, LB, Olathe; Ty Zimmerman, S, Junction City; and Tysyn Hartman, S, Wichita, not to mention David Garrett (Fort Scott), Emmanuel Lamur (Independence) and Adam Davis (Hutchinson), who played community college football in the Kansas-based Jayhawk Conference.

On special teams, there were place kicker Anthony Cantele (Wichita) and long snapper Marcus Heit (Derby).

That’s 13 starters out of the Kansas high school ranks, not to mention a pair from Kansas City, Mo., plus three more from the Kansas community college ranks for a total of 18 individuals who played their prep ball, or junior college football, in the Sunflower State/KC metro area.

While  the host of recruiting web sites make it hard to keep a player a secret, coach Bill Snyder admits,
“There are some hidden gems in the state that don’t get as much recognition.”

Special team’s coordinator Sean Snyder adds, “It takes a special kind of kid to play at Kansas State. That 5-star kid can fit in, but these Kansas players are hard workers and have a special love for the game of football that you don’t find everywhere. We have kids from broken homes and affluent homes, but it boils down to working hard and really, really having a love for the game of football. That’s what it takes to fit at Kansas State.”

Dana Dimel played at Hutchinson Community College before finishing his career at K-State.

“There’s a misconception that this place was built on junior college guys from around the country,” said Dimel, who now serves as K-State’s running game coordinator. “We did have some good individuals that came from that avenue, but Kansas State was built on great local kids, plus Texas kids that were overlooked and some Florida kids that were overlooked. But it all started right here (Kansas) with kids who came in and worked hard and over-achieved. The junior college kids were then sprinkled in.”

Dimel added that K-State’s evaluation process is unparalled in college football in finding players “… who want to work their tail off to make the most of what they have to work with. Through the years, we’ve had a lot of very talented individuals who didn’t have another Division I offer. A lot of it is about evaluation.”

Examples of these Kansas/Kansas City-based prepsters who came to K-State as walk-ons, but worked themselves into the Wildcat starting lineup include: Ian Campbell, Joe Bob Clements, Jon McGraw, Jordy Nelson, Marcus Perry, Tim Reyer, Logan Robinson, Blake Seiler, Jeff Snodgrass and Marcus Watts.

And yes, while there have been super-talents like Michael Bishop, Jeff Kelly and Quincy Morgan who have come from afar, the heart of K-State’s rosters through the years were these Sunflower products who went on to earn All-Big 8/12 recognition: Brooks Barta, Monty Beisel, Travis Brown, Lamar Chapman, Ryan Lilja, Jon McGraw, Justin Montgomery, Jordy Nelson, Terence Newman, Travis Ochs, Jamie and Joe Rheem, Mark Simoneau, Darren Sproles, Nick Stringer, Rashad Washington, Watts, Wade Weibert, Nyle Wiren and Ty Zimmerman.

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