Small towns: most people have been through one–especially in Kansas–but rarely ponder how they might contribute to the success of a college football program. At K-State, our football team wouldn’t be what it is today without those tiniest of towns, some little more than the proverbial “spot in the road.”
Currently, around 25 percent of the Kansas State football team are from towns with fewer than 10,000 people. Major contributors such as Meshak Williams, Angelo Pease, B.J. Finney and Braden Wilson all hail from such burgs.
Without small towns, K-State football would never have been graced by many of the All-Americans we were so fortunate to know. Two such stars, Jordy Nelson and Mark Simoneau, both had football careers birthed on fields in places most people couldn’t locate on a map: Riley, KS and Smith Center, KS respectively.
The Kansas State football team is known for its never-quit attitude. Those who reside in less populated areas tend to have work ethics to be envied, and many times will work even harder because they often view themselves as underdogs. In the last 20+ years, the football Wildcats have taken on this mentality under head coach Bill Snyder, as evidenced by the successful seasons when K-State was continually underrated. They fought back, again and again, and proved those doubters wrong.
Bill Snyder has made the small-town atmosphere appealing to recruits all across the country. He has worked hard to create a program that prides itself on family, community, loyalty and hard work, making hometown heroes out of players who were overlooked just because of where they were from.
I would be remiss not to recognize my own hometown of Macksville, KS. The upcoming football season will find 3 players on the roster who are proud to call Macksville, a town with a population of 549, home. Perhaps the most prominent of the three is Jared Loomis. A graduate of Macksville High School, Jared was one of the 2011 Special Teams Players of Year at K-State’s football awards banquet. He got his start playing 8-man football on Macksville’s field, and the whole town can’t wait to see what he does in his senior season at KSU.
This column is not intended to discount the hard work and results the players from larger hometowns have produced. It’s simply intended to give due credit to those who come from places with more cattle than stop lights, and show that their contributions to K-State football have not gone unnoticed.
So the next time you happen upon a small town in your travels, just remember that you might be passing through the hometown of a future K-State football star.