Tay Bender has put on a virtuoso senior performance at Lincoln Southwest this season. The Kansas State-committed quarterback lead the Silver Hawks to an 8-1 regular season and a District 2 championship in Nebraska Class A.
"It's going good," said Tay Bender. "I'm staying humble and playing hard. We've come together as a team this year. The chemistry on the team has been great all year. We're ready to take the next step in the playoffs. Everybody's worked hard to get there."
Bender's numbers are very similar to what he put up as a junior, but that team was 5-4 with a first round playoff exit. This year's Southwest squad is ranked #3 by the Omaha World Herald and #2 by the Lincoln Journal Star and expected to be playing deep into the playoffs. A big reason has been Bender's evolving maturity at quarterback.
"In the off-season I worked a lot of my footwork," Bender said. "My throwing has improved too. I've more patient in the pocket waiting for my teammates to get open and making the right read. My completion percentage is a lot higher this year."
Bender, 6-foot-3, 208-pounds, has similar stats to the current Kansas State quarterback, Collin Klein. In nine games Bender has passed for 862 yards and rushed for 502. In comparison, Klein has passed for 934 yards and rushed for 547 in seven games at K-State. Still, he knows he'll have a lot to lean when he comes to campus in the Spring.
"I'm going in with an open mind," said Bender. "I'll need to have a short term memory and not get down when I make mistakes. I'm going to have to learn a whole new offense so it will be important to pay attention to detail. I'm going to have a year to learn from Collin Klein. That's going to help me out in the long run."
Bender graduated early from Southwest, allowing him to enroll early at Kansas State and be a part of the Wildcat's spring practice. Graduating early has become somewhat trending for those who are able to, allowing them to join their team a semester early, something vital at the quarterback position. Having the ability to come in early and learn the offensive playbook, go through Spring practices and gain real snaps gives players a huge advantage in the fall.
"I was there for the Baylor game and Oklahoma," said Bender on his visit to Bill Snyder Football Stadium. "I usually send Coach (Del) Miller an email and ask ‘how we're doing?'. I talk a little with Collin. Since I committed I've just heard from Nebraska and Kansas, but I'm a Wildcat and it's going to stay that way."
Some of Bender's season highlights include a three touchdown performance in the North Star game. He broke loose for long TD runs of 61 and 80 yards. His 34-yard field goal was the difference in the 16-14 win over highly rated Millard West. Bender has 13 touchbacks this season on kickoffs and has punted for a 41.4 average.
At Southwest in 2010, Bender set school records for passing yards in a game, completions in a game, and longest pass in a game. Already used to winning, Bender comes to Manhattan ready to learn and compete.