Remember the pain. That is junior linebacker Jonathan Truman’s message to players on K-State’s football team who weren’t around in 2009 and 2010 when the team went 6-6 and 7-6, respectively.
The former walk-on was a redshirt in 2010, but he said he remembers the six losses during that season, as well as how tough the seven wins came.
“Just building and improving on a football team, and trying to make something great happen,” Truman said.
With the Wildcats sitting at 2-2 for the first time since 2009, Truman said the message is becoming louder and shared more frequently.
“Just remember how it feels to lose,” Truman said. “Because if you don’t remember how it feels to lose and really feel that pain, then you’re not going to stop it from happening again.”
The losses are especially difficult to deal with after the past two seasons of double-digit wins.
“Really the past couple of years we’ve really gotten used to winning,” Truman said. “And when games were close, we always somehow pulled it out and somehow won. When there are games that are close and we end up losing, it’s kind of a shock to us. Right now, we’re just handling it in a way of just getting it all together.”
Vocalizing this message, however, is difficult for Truman, who is in his first season as a starter.
“Yeah, that’s something that I always need to improve on is really being more vocal, and it’s something that is kind of out of my comfort zone,” Truman said, who played mainly special teams in 2011 and 2012. “We talk about it. I said it’s important for some of the guys who weren’t around when we were 7-6 that they know what it feels like to lose so that it doesn’t happen again.”
K-State head coach Bill Snyder said he’s seen more vocal leadership from older players referencing the 2009 and 2010 seasons since the loss to Texas.
“We did a little drill in which everyone stepped up and said, ‘Here’s what I haven’t done as well as I need to, and here’s what I’m going to try and do to help this football team,’” Snyder said.
Truman said small changes like, “watching film on our own when we have spare time instead of only when we have mandatory meetings,” are some of the “little things” that could get K-State back to where they’ve been accustomed to the past two seasons.
Even if Truman’s vocal leadership isn’t where he wants it to be, his leadership ability is still effective according to sophomore safety Dante Barnett.
“We see his leadership but he’s not that much of a vocal leader,” Barnett said. “Like I said about [Lockett], Jonathan just tries to show us what to do and the ways to do it instead of yelling, then getting us hyped about it.”
One way or the other, Truman said he is trying to, “get everybody on the right side of the fence.”
“As long as everybody is on one side of the fence, we can do great things,” Truman said. “I think it comes down to some of the new guys that you talk about that might be on the other side of the fence just kind of walked into a winning program. Some people might not know what it takes to win. They just kind of walked in and started winning, and thought that it might just be handed to them.”
Don’t confuse Truman’s words for panic, however.
“It’s natural for us to be bothered by something like that but I’m not here to lick my wounds and cry about anything,” Truman said. “We’re moving on. What’s done is done, and we’re looking forward.”
According to Truman, what it boils down to is players’ willingness to follow the leaders who’ve been a part of the building process at K-State, and know what it takes to win.
“With great leaders, you have to have great followers as well,” Truman said. “Not everybody can be a leader and not everybody can be a follower. With leaders, with whatever they’re trying to say, the followers have to do it, and that’s how great teams are formed is when everybody can work together.”