The Wildcat football program is known for developing players — giving players the opportunity to play at the power five conference level, and taking a chance on players that aren’t high on the recruiting radar.
That was the case five years ago when Kansas State offered DJ Render, a 5-foot-11, 191-pound wide receiver from Kennesaw, Georgia, a scholarship. He took the chance to play at the power five level.
Render redshirted his freshman year and now received playing time as a wide receiver in his final season.
He struggled to compete for playing time. He moved to defensive back at one point because he couldn’t find playing time as a wide receiver. There, he got some snaps in, as well as on special teams, but he still couldn’t produce many stats.
Things changed for Render again this season. Opportunities at the wide receiver position opened up this season. After a transfer out, the position needed some help. Head coach Chris Klieman asked Render if he would be willing to move back to wide receiver.
“I just want to do anything and everything I can to help this team win and be successful,” Render said. “When [Klieman] asked me to do that — I was all in.”
Render — who has a fun and silly personality that defensive back Ross Elder calls “something else” — was all smiles during his time at the podium addressing reporters on Tuesday.
“It is always good to have someone like him in the locker room who uplifts every other person behind him,” Elder said. “He is always talking and cracking jokes. It’s awesome having him in the locker room.”
His personality allows him to bond with his teammates. While struggling to find playing time, he thought of transferring, but the bond with his teammates kept him a Wildcat.
“I just love my team so much,” Render said. “It is ridiculous. I have really met brothers for life here. That was really the holding glue that allowed me to stay here. … I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love K-State.”
Render appreciated former head coach Bill Snyder and his staff taking a chance, but he is happy to be a part of Klieman’s team.
The Wildcats’ game against TCU was Render’s first game at wide receiver this season. He made three receptions for 24 yards. Render said the first reception is a special moment for him.
“It felt great,” Render said. “I haven’t felt that feeling since my senior year in high school. My literal last reception in high school. It felt so good. All I can say is God is amazing. I love Coach Klieman and his staff for giving me this opportunity.”
The following week against Kansas, he made one reception for 21 yards.
Now, he’s doing what he can to develop solid chemistry with freshman quarterback Will Howard. They work together before and after practice.
“I just want to be able to be his security blanket in certain situations,” Render said. “I want to be able to allow him to have confidence in me. When it comes time to go out there and execute, I just want to go out there and make the plays for the team.”
Senior linebacker Justin Hughes praised Render and said he is proud of Render for his hard work.
“I tell him, ‘Just keep your head level and to keep your head high, just stay the course,’” Hughes said.
It was not exactly how Render expected his college football career to play out, but he is happy the tides worked out for him.
“It is truly a blessing — God is amazing,” Render said. “It is amazing how when you just stick the course and trust the process, and you know, you have to have an honest self-assessment when it comes to certain things that I was doing in the past that wouldn’t allow me to get on the field. But now when I truly sat back and realized what I needed to do different to allow myself to get on the field, I made that commitment for the team. It is my senior year, I just wanted to have the best impact that I could for this team.”