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Tiger seniors in final game

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Tanner Hageman came to Fort Hays State University as a quarterback out of Cheney High School. When Chris Brown took over after the 2010 season, Hageman moved to wide receiver. After a semester at wideout, Hageman, still a walk-on, was going to transfer to Friends University.

"He was a kid who I knew had great instincts, had great ability," Brown said. "Great leadership. I knew that the kids would follow him pretty well and listen to the things that he would do.

"He is a kid that works hard at everything that he does -- not only on the football field or in the weight room, but in the classroom," he added.

"He is going to have his degree. You've got to keep kids like that in your program. He is just a good role model."

Brown and Hageman talked a couple of times. Hageman wanted to be a quarterback. If Hageman went to Friends, he would probably have to walk on as well. Brown wanted Hageman to stay so much that he put him on scholarship.

Hageman stayed around -- and is now a team captain in his senior year.

"Staying here is the best decision that I ever made," Hageman said.

Hageman's story encapsulates many of the seniors of the 2013 Tiger class. Some of the 13 seniors, such as Hageman and wideout Keaton Callins, changed positions. Hageman has played in 28 career games and has 66 catches for 837 yards and six scores.

Callins, with 32 career contests, leads the squad with 50 catches for 664 yards and nine scores this year. He has 76 catches for 995 yards and 12 TDs overall.

"I definitely struggled with it my first few years here, being a young guy," Hageman said of leading. "I wasn't as vocal as what I would like to be, but this year, it's never easy to get pointed and trying to lead a team. At the same time, I take pride in it. From where I have come, a walk-on to be a team captain, just means a lot to me."

Others, including senior defensive back Stephen Marcotte and senior running Andre Smith, missed a year because of a medical redshirt. A couple of seniors were transfers, including offensive lineman Mario Abundez and Greg List, who have played well in their lone years as starters.

"I met my best friends here," Hageman said.

On Saturday, the Tigers (5-5, 3-5 MIAA) close the season at home against rival University of Nebraska-Kearney (3-7, 3-5 MIAA). Start time is 2 p.m. at Lewis Field Stadium.

"This group of kids has done everything that we have asked them to do," Brown said. "New coach came in, didn't know how he was, had to buy into our system and what we were doing.They did that, and they have enjoyed it and they have embraced it, and they were kind of the foundation."

Only four Tigers are left who played in a game before Brown came in 2011: Hageman, Marcotte and two redshirt juniors: bandit backer Zach Nash and running back Edward Smith.

Marcotte is the team leader is career games played among current Tigers with 41 (10 starts). From Blackwell, Okla., Marcotte played in all 11 games as a true freshman in 2009. Now, Marcotte wishes he took the redshirt earlier in his career.

"I thought it was pretty cool to get to travel and play as a true freshman," Marcotte said. "I was mostly a special teams guy then. By sophomore year, I was special teams again and then a nickel safety. It's just kind of progressed each year. You come in, and it's all moving so fast. It's been nice to kind of mature over the years to the point that I am at now."

In 2010, he appeared in nine contests. Marcotte had some health issues in 2011 and took a redshirt.

"Just like Tanner Hageman," Brown said. "Comes to work every day. Does everything that you ask him to do. Works hard in the weight room. Works hard on the practice field, but he leads by example, and the things that he does. Never caused any trouble whatsoever. I don't think he has ever been late to a meeting or late to a workout. Kids see those thngs."

Marcotte started nine games last season with one start this year. He has 75 tackles and five pass breakups in his career.

"It's time management," Marcotte said. "You have to find time to do your schoolwork, to be at practice, meetings, lifting. I think that's a thing that a lot of people who aren't student-athletes don't realize, that we put in 40 hours a week in football and then on top of that, we have our schoolwork and some of us have to work part time jobs. It is tough, but you get used to it. It is definitely harder my freshman year than it is now."