Number #1 Emerges at Running Back

Like he did last fall, Keithen Valentine has emerged as the best Kansas State has at running back. Today he "thanks God" for a second chance after being benched, and forgotten about, by Ron Prince last fall. Other Wildcats are singled out and potential starters emerge at Coach Snyder's Press Conference....

Keithen Valentine openly announces that he "... thanks God for this second chance."

A walk-on from Mississippi Delta Community College a year ago, Valentine was the early headliner of last fall's camp, which earned him a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of the season.

He rushed for 65 yards against North Texas, then 39 against Montana State, and then fell to 14 yards against Louisville.

After that, the 5-foot-8, 193-pound senior touched the ball only three more times for 11 net yards in the final nine games.

"I guess I wasn't doing something right," Valentine said. "There were some changes that they wanted to make, so they made them. I just kept on practicing hard and tried to get better."

Exactly what was it that positioned Valentine at the end of the bench for the rest of the season, in his mind, is "... your guess is better than mine. I wasn't doing something right, but they never said what."

Now, he says, "It's just an honor to be with these coaches. It's a fresh start. Thank God I get a second shot. I'm just thankful to get to play football again."

To coach Bill Snyder, Valentine is one of the bright spots of the first two weeks of the spring camp.

"He practices hard and shown capabilities. He has those sudden bursts and a quick change of direction," Snyder said. "Like Darren (Sproles), he has a low center of gravity and has the courage to play that position."

But mainly, Snyder said, "He understand how to practice. He's been pretty consistent and assignment sound."

To that, Valentine says, "I've never had a problem with working."

And now, he adds, "I'm doing it for a legendary coach."

Valentine, who is being backed by Logan Dold, credits much of his improvement and rise to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart to graduate assistant and former Wildcat David Allen, who was more of a special teams ace from 1997-2000.

"He's been like a brother to me. He's taken me under his wing," Valentine said. "After every play, he's teaching me something. I'm getting knowledge from him."

Generally, he calls that knowledge in the area of "small details" like better blocking, and if a mistake is made, "He tells me to forget it and keep going."

Asked if he still considers himself a Big 12-caliber running back, Valentine answers, "Yes sir."

He added, "I had my position stripped away from me, but I still had confidence. I knew I was still a player. I went on with a smile." The same answer comes when asked if he's glad, at least at times, he will be joined by a true fullback in the backfield, which K-State did not have in any of the Prince years.

"Yes sir," Valentine said. "I'll let the fullback get the big guys before I get there."

The fullback candidates include 6-1, 220 pound redshirt freshman Jarell Childs, and 6-4, 245 freshman Braden Wilson.

With more dashers coming into camp in the fall in freshmen John Hubert from Waco, Texas, Tramaine Thompson from Jenks, Okla., and Timothy Flanders from Midwest City, Okla., Valentine says, "This is my chance to show the coaches and players I can be the running back. I'm going to fight to try to establish myself before they come in."

Overall, he says, "I have something to prove. This is something I had to go through. It's a test God put me through. I feel stronger right now."

OTHER HEADLINERS SNYDER MENTIONED AT TUESDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE:

OFFENSE:
Clyde Aufner, 6-7, 288, Soph, OL; Brandon Banks, 5-7, 150, Sr; Lamark Brown, 6-2, 225, Jr, WR

DEFENSE:
Ulla Pomele, 6-1, 228, Sr, LB; Alex Hrebec, 5-11, 238, Soph, LB; John Houlik, 5-11, 219, Sr, LB

SPECIALISTS:
Corey Adams, 6-4, 242, Jr, Long Snapper


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