From dream to reality: Hiebert achieves a first for his hometown

Special teams captain Weston Hiebert played 11-man football for the first time when he arrived at K-State in 2010. (Emily DeShazer | The Collegian)

Five hundred and thirty-nine people call Goessel, Kansas home and prior to Weston Hiebert’s arrival at K-State, no one from the small, central Kansas community had ever played Division I football.

Despite sitting on the sidelines for two seasons and having never played 11-man football prior to his arrival at K-State, Hiebert defied the odds in front of him and now sits as one of six team captains for the No. 25 Wildcats.

Hiebert would be the first to say that he didn’t know what role he would carry in head coach Bill Snyder’s program, but he was looking for that one opportunity to make a name for himself on the depth chart.

“Coming in out of high school, I didn’t know if I was ever going to get a chance to get on the field,” Hiebert said. “Any way that I could get on and any way that I could make an impact and help the team, that’s perfectly fine with me.”

Just as so many have done in the past during Snyder’s regime in Manhattan, Hiebert made himself known in special teams to begin the 2012-13 season. He had two unassisted tackles against Missouri State in the season opener and to this day, it’s the memory that hits his mind the fastest.

“The moment that has stuck with me most was that game,” Hiebert said. “After a couple of years of not being on the field and a few years of hard work finally paying off, getting on the field and making a few tackles, that would probably be one of the big ones.”

Simply put, the process that brought Hiebert to Manhattan is far different than a majority of his teammates. Prior to the 2014-15 school year, Goessel High School had only 68 students at the ninth, 10th and 11th grade levels.

Justin Coup, Weston’s high school coach and now head coach at Solomon High School, said it didn’t take long for him to stand out on the playing field.

“(Weston) started as a sophomore for us and with the role that he played, I could tell he had the ‘it’ factor and he had the drive and the motivation to go to the next level,” Coup said. “It’s primarily Mennonite country (in Goessel) and his dad was an All-American at Bethel (College). So it’s one of those deals where the assumption was that it was where he was going to go.”

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics football wasn’t going to do it for the special teams star. Hiebert worked at putting together a highlight tape to send to Division I schools and K-State took notice.

Mo Latimore, who has served as K-State’s defensive line coach for 31 years, made a trip to Goessel and it’s a conversation that quickly circled through the Hiebert family.

Myron Hiebert, Weston’s father, still remembers the call he got from his son on that special day.

“Justin (Coup) may have known he was coming, but I didn’t know he was coming,” Myron said. “Weston called me at work and said, ‘Coach Latimore is here and he wanted to talk to me.’ He was just overflowing with excitement and it was pretty exciting that he even came out and talked to him.”

Coup’s assessment of Weston ultimately provided Latimore with an evaluation that was too good to pass up.

“The young man, when he was in high school, did an outstanding job and I was really pleased with what he had done and the way he had handled himself and the things he had accomplished,” Latimore said. “His coach could not say enough great things about him. It showed me that he was capable of playing at our level and doing an outstanding job.”

Just as so many K-State coaches have accomplished in the past, Latimore’s evaluation has paid off. Weston has tallied 18 total tackles through a little more than two seasons for the Wildcats and he’ll be looked at as a key contributor as they continue to pursue a second Big 12 championship in three seasons.

More than any on-field accolade or statistic that he has accumulated, finding out he’d represent the program as one of six captains was an honor, but also a shock.

“They told us like 30 seconds before we came out the doors for the spring game (in spring 2013), so I really didn’t know,” Weston said. “We’d had one in the past, but we didn’t have one last year, but it’s a great honor from the guys to vote me as that and for the coaches to allow it. It’s crazy.”

Myron and his family were at the spring game and it was an emotional moment that he will not soon forget.

“You kind of get a lump in your throat and you almost kind of tear up because he has put in so much work and so much time as all of his teammates do,” Myron said. “He’s no different than any other of those guys out there, but getting some recognition for the work he had done is pretty special.”

Coup remembers sitting in the crowd last April and hearing the announcement. It’s something he’ll never forget because of the significance and honor it brings to Weston as he closes his career as a Wildcat.

“I was at the spring game and he didn’t even know it at the time,” Coup said. “When they announced that he was going to be the special teams captain, that’s when your heart fills up with pride for that kid and everything that he has done and for the five and a half years that he put in at K-State to get to his dream.”