Senior Day ‘a long time coming’ for 24 football players

Defensive end Jordan Willis chases down the opposition during the home-opening game against Florida Atlantic in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 17, 2016. (File Photo by Nick Horvath | The Collegian)

If he could be remembered for anything, Kansas State senior defensive end Jordan Willis said he would like to be remembered as a guy who kept life off the field from affecting life on it.

“I want people to see me as a guy that just always, regardless of what was going on around him, he just always came in to work and just put in the work every single day and prepared to be successful on Saturday regardless of the outcome,” Willis said.

Mission accomplished, according to some of the younger players on the team.

“He doesn’t say a lot, but he’s the hardest worker on this team by far,” redshirt freshman running back Alex Barnes said of Willis. “He’s going to have a great NFL career.”

Sophomore right tackle Dalton Risner said he has learned a lot from Willis both on and off the field.

“Jordan Willis is a great football player, I have a lot of respect for him,” Risner said. “He’s one of those guys that isn’t going to talk too much; he’s just going to go right by the book and he’s going to do everything right, and I’ve learned a lot from him just in film study and how to care yourself.”

Risner said he has conversations with Willis every week, and Willis consistently talks about how he might be able to get around opposing players based on what he’s seeing them do on film.

“It’s pretty cool sometimes to see how (Willis) studies film so much to where he knows some moves that he’s going try to do on these tackles,” Risner said. “He studies the game so much that he knows what he’s going to do going into the game. I think that’s a good lesson that a lot of us football players can take from him; the fact that studying film is really important.”

Willis is just one of 24 seniors scheduled to be recognized at Senior Day when the Wildcats host the Kansas Jayhawks today.

In a game full of potential storylines outside the Wildcats’ locker room, there’s at least one developing within it.

“We have a bet to see who’s going to cry,” senior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. “Out of me, (senior safety) Dante (Barnett) and (senior wide receiver Steven West). I think Dante’s going to be the one.”

Willis said there will be no crying on his part today.

Moore is another of the seniors playing in his last game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium today. This game, Moore said, has been a long time coming. He’d like to be remembered as someone who overcame all that was thrown at him.

“He overcame a lot, and he was a team player; that’s what I want my legacy to be,” Moore said. “He didn’t let the odds get him down; he fought through everything that was thrown his way.”

Moore has overcome a lot to get to this game, much of it with the help of Barnett, who he called “a brother for life.”

“He’s helped me through so much,” Moore said. “My brain surgery, he was there; my dad passed and he was there; with my mom being sick this year, he was there.”

Head coach Bill Snyder said he sincerely respects young people like the seniors on the team who have stuck with something this long, especially in today’s world.

“For all of them it hasn’t been the greatest journey in the world,” Snyder said. “Some of them have gone through more difficult times than others and still managed to never give up and persevere through all of it and gain a great deal in terms of their value system.”

This class is filled with players who have represented the university well, Snyder said, and ones he thinks will do well in life in part because of what they’ve gained toward their values.

“(If) you look through it you don’t see guys that have gotten themselves into trouble or guys that haven’t done well in the classroom,” Snyder said. “You see guys that have done what they needed to do and been great teammates for the rest of the team.”

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.