As the gates to KSU Stadium opened and fans hurried to get prime seats for their first taste of fall football action, the clouds that had poured rain earlier in the day were clearing out like a Victor Mann lead block. Fans in attendance were fortunate enough to watch the Wildcats practice for 45 minutes without fear of showers.
After group drills, 11-on-11, and punting drills were complete, coach Bill Snyder took center stage, following proper introductions by radio personality Matt Walters and stadium PA announcer Ivan Wilkinson. Snyder expressed his appreciation for continued fan support, and said that the team is looking forward to the season opener on September 3.
After introducing the coaches and the senior players, Snyder was alerted that he had forgotten two important cogs - defensive coordinator Bob Elliott and senior running back Carlos Alsup. Snyder apologized for the omission of Elliott's name, but was quick to say that he neglected Alsup in anticipation of his returning for a fifth year, due to a medical hardship.
Snyder then gave way to the senior captains - Victor Mann, Jeromey Clary and Brandon Archer. All three expressed their appreciation for "the greatest fans in the county," and spoke of anticipation to take the field.
As the speeches concluded, gates to the field were opened and fans took the field. It was like a calmer, younger version of the 1998 Nebraska crowd - with preteens taking the place of college students and the goal posts facing no ill fortunes. Before he could even have a table set up to sign autographs, Snyder was enveloped by a crowd of young Wildcats - proving that Fan Appreciation Day was, as Snyder said while addressing the crowd, truly special for the young people.
A look in any direction could find young kids getting autographs from players who previously seemed larger than life, children having their pictures snapped with Saturday heroes, adolescents having the time of their life playing catch on the Wagner Field turf, and wide-eyed youngsters hugging Willie the Wildcat.
While some may point to a lack of substance to the
viewed portion of practice in dismissing the day, it
seems that to truly show fans the appreciation that
the team and coaches feel for them, an
up-close-and-personal setting is exactly what's
needed. The fans were sent home happy, and with a
thirst for more K-State football. A thirst that will
be magnified with the arrival of Purple Power Play on
Poyntz next week, and quenched when the Wildcats take
the field against the Florida International Golden
Panthers on September 3.
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