November 21, 2008

Senior Day arrives for few who remain

This one is for the Kansas State seniors, from two-time All-Big 12 defensive end Ian Campbell to Brent Draper, a tight end from Hays who never started in a game. This is for right guard Gerard Spexarth, who saw Bill Snyder carried off the field one last time, and defensive tackle Brandon Balkcom, who arrived later but now bleeds purple and white just the same. This is for the 20-member senior class of 2008, which endured frustration that they might never even fully tell their family about.

Thank you.

Think about it. No, really think about it for a moment.

There are eight players on this team that appeared on the roster back in 2004: Brett Alstatt, Chris Bamberger, Jordan Bedore, Andrew Erker, Vlad Faustin, Jared Parker, Campbell and Spexarth. Some had scholarships. Others were walk-ons. The one thing they all had in common: With K-State abuzz with excitement and momentum in coming off its first-ever Big 12 Championship title, they redshirted their freshman season with dreams of carrying on the momentum from 2003 and 2004 onto the field in 2005.

Newsflash: Life isn't fair. By now, these guys more than know that.

Fast forward and these eight players have been a part of the K-State family through 25 wins and 33 losses and one bowl appearance. No group of fifth-year seniors have been through the ringer so much since, well, there are probably some players out there that remember being a part of the program between 1989 and 1992. The Wildcats won 18 games between those five seasons.

That was back at the beginning of K-State football, as they say.

So, it could be argued these eight current players have witnessed the most frustrating five years of K-State football. Why? Every year spawned new hope, the thought that "this really can't happen again, can it?" See, there was a time when there was little hope and low expectations. Those times have been well chronicled.

No other group of K-State players have entered with 10- or 11-win seasons staring at them through the rearview mirror, only to see those wins grow smaller and smaller as they seemingly shoot downward in rollercoaster fashion. Oh, yes, and it was, indeed, a thrill ride for this senior class. Some teammates jumped off and some newcomers jumped aboard amid all of the dizziness that included Snyder's retirement and Prince's hiring. In three seasons under Prince, the team went through four different coordinators (James Franklin followed by Dave Brock on offense; Raheem Morris then Tim Tibesar on defense) and 12 other assistant coaches.

The one thing these seniors have in common: They've kept fighting and pushing forward, whether it be only on the practice field or as a defensive starter facing fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line. They yearned for a chance to capture the same type of success as those K-State players before them.

But it never happened.

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