MANHATTAN — After helping the Kansas State football team win 23 games and play in three bowls, senior quarterback Alex Delton will put a cap on his memorable time in Manhattan later this week when he makes his final appearance at Bill Snyder Family Stadium ... in a TCU uniform.
"That will be interesting seeing him coming out of the opposing team's tunnel," K-State center Adam Holtorf said. "I'm sure we will share some words after the game, but it will be a little unique to have a former teammate across the field."
Not just any former teammate. Delton, a quarterback, grew up in Hays and at times during his K-State career was thought to be the future leader of the Wildcats' offense. Delton was offensive MVP at the 2017 Cactus Bowl and a team captain in 2018. Injuries and inconsistent play prevented him from living up to his full potential, but he was a productive and popular quarterback for several years.
It is becoming more common for college football players to face off against former teammates. K-State already went against former receiver Isaiah Zuber earlier this season at Mississippi State.
"He was a great dude who worked really hard and was there for me when I first got here," K-State running back Harry Trotter said of Delton. "It will definitely be fun seeing him here. I wish him the best."
At this time last year, Skylar Thompson and Delton were teammates intertwined in a quarterback derby that often felt like it overshadowed a disappointing season that turned out to be Bill Snyder's final year on the job.
Thompson started 10 games, but Delton played in seven and served as the primary passer in three. They split snaps whenever Delton was healthy. Though Thompson proved to be the better quarterback, K-State would not have beaten Kansas or stayed competitive against TCU without Delton.
At times, the game of musical chairs seemed arbitrary and left both players feeling hurt.
"You put two competitors together, especially playing quarterback, people are going to butt heads," Thompson said. "It's just natural. I think what was good for me and Alex was we never took it personal. We understood the circumstances of what we were both trying to do and we supported one another in the midst of all of that."
"It would have been hard for other people to manage the situation the way we did and support one another the way we did, so that was good."
When the season ended and Snyder retired, Delton left as a graduate transfer, leaving Thompson as the unquestioned starter under new coach Chris Klieman. They will compete in a new way on Saturday.
Delton originally committed to Texas-El Paso, where he planned to reunite with former K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel. But Delton ultimately landed at TCU when the Horned Frogs expressed interest.
Thompson and Delton have kept in touch. Thompson is looking forward to catching up with his former teammate again on Saturday, saying "we want the best for each other."
TCU did not make Delton available for a formal interview, but he said via text message that he will have a large contingent of friends and family at the game. He is also excited to experience K-State's "wild" football atmosphere one last time.
It's been an up-and-down time for him in Fort Worth. Delton did enough during spring and summer practices to start the first game and be chosen as a captain. But freshman Max Duggan has since passed him on the depth chart and is expected to lead the Frogs' offense against K-State on Saturday.
Delton has played in all five TCU games, completing 25 of 48 passes for 312 yards. He has also added 128 yards on the ground.
Klieman is impressed with Delton's speed and says the Wildcats will need to be ready for him every time he enters the game, even if Delton isn't the QB1 he hoped he would be when he left K-State.
"He'll be in the ballgame," TCU coach Gary Patterson said on the Big 12 teleconference. "He's played in every ballgame. ... He's been great here. Been the consummate teammate. One of my captains. Even when he hasn't been the starter, he's been great for us as far as how he's handled things. I see no issues."