Spotlight shining bright on Kansas State
Published on -10/24/2012, 11:18 AM
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN -- The last time there was this kind of buzz surrounding Kansas State football, Curry Sexton was on the outside looking in and enjoying every minute of it.
As a young boy, he watched excitedly from his family's seats in the south end zone of Snyder Family Stadium -- then KSU Stadium -- as the Wildcats climbed from obscurity to national prominence.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and Sexton is reliving the dream, only this time as a sophomore wide receiver for the No. 4-ranked Wildcats. Heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. home game against Texas Tech, they're 7-0, leading the Big 12 at 4-0 and ranked third in the BCS standings.
"Back in the so-called glory days, back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was still young," Sexton said. "I remember the games like it were yesterday, but I can't compare the two.
"I remember players' names, games, everything else, but I can't compare the two situations."
Much as they did in 1998, when they came within one victory of playing for a national championship, or in 2003 when they stunned No. 1-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, these Wildcats have captured the imagination not only of die-hard K-State fans, but of college fans from coast to coast.
A 55-14 victory at No. 17 West Virginia last Saturday was just the latest triumph.
That's pretty heady stuff for someone like Sexton, who grew up just down the road in Abilene and bled purple for as long as he can remember.
"Obviously it's special to be a part of this, an honor to be a part of this," he said. "Sometimes you really do have to take a step back and just thank God and be thankful for the situation that we're in.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. The last time K-State was in a situation like this was 1998 and that just kind of shows you that this stuff doesn't come along every year."
Coach Bill Snyder, who engineered the first successful turnaround before retiring for three years at the end of the 2005 season, has the Wildcats back to where they were by following the same day-at-a-time, game-at-a-time formula as before.
But clearly, with the proliferation of the Internet and social media in particular in recent years, his players are more in tune with what happens outside the walls of the Vanier Football Complex.
"With Twitter and Facebook, everybody's going to tell you everything that's been said," said senior wide receiver Chris Harper. "They're going to basically replay it.
"It's kind of hard to get away from it, but one thing the guys on this team have is humility."
With the spotlight shining brighter than at any time since 2003, Harper said he's interested to see how the Wildcats react.
"We're actually getting some type of love now," he said. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, because we haven't had that kind of attention before and you don't know how guys will handle it.
"That's where it's big for the older guys and guys who are leaders on the team to kind of keep guys even-keeled and being consistent (with) what we've been doing all year."
At the same time, Harper considers the attention long overdue.
"I always said I thought we were one of the best in the nation," he said. "We work like we're one of the best in the nation, and that's not going to change.
"Coach Snyder and the guys on the team aren't going to let that change because we understand how important it is just to win the next game on the schedule."
It doesn't hurt that quarterback Collin Klein, who is in the national Heisman Trophy conversation and nominated for several national awards, remains as indifferent as ever about the attention. Ditto for senior linebacker Arthur Brown, the most decorated defensive player.
"The great thing about it is Arthur. He won't sit back and watch the game, and he's the leader of the defense," Harper said. "He doesn't watch TV.
"Collin, he's kind of the same way. So the leaders on both sides of the ball, they don't really watch the media, and I think that keeps it all in perspective for everybody else on the team that's excited about it."
Harper said he takes the pulse of fans and fellow students via Twitter, since he has no classes on campus this semester and therefore doesn't mingle much. But Sexton sees it every day.
"It's one of the most surreal, awesome feelings I've ever been around," Sexton said. "At K-State, maybe we haven't gotten the respect we thought we deserved in the past. But I think after Saturday night you kind of saw that change a little bit.
"We've just got to be thankful for where we're at and work on improving every day."