Countdown to Kickoff: 18 days away with wide receiver Eric Hommel, linebacker Gaven Haselhorst

Leading up to the start of K-State's 2021 football season, the Collegian takes a look at what to expect and highlights every player on the roster. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Senior wide receiver Eric Hommel and freshman linebacker Gaven Haselhorst both suit up as No. 18 in today’s countdown to kickoff.

Eric Hommel exploded onto the scene his junior year at Rock Canyon High School in Littleton, Colorado, racking up a school-record 67 receptions for 840 yards and 11 touchdowns. While he didn’t receive an offer, his performance caught the eye of Kansas State coaches.

Hommel came to Manhattan in 2017 as a preferred walk-on wide receiver and redshirted his first season. He saw the field in 2018 but didn’t record any statistics and didn’t see any playing time in 2019.

In 2020, Hommel started seeing more time on the field. He played in six games as a receiver and on special teams, even recording a tackle on kickoff against Baylor.

Sitting behind a slurry of solid receivers going through the program in recent years, Hommel’s playing time has been limited. However, his continued hard work earned him a “Tough” Player of the Week award.

As a senior and with his reserved playing time from this past season, Hommel will likely see the field in some fashion in 2021. The size of his role is still up in the air. Hommel is majoring in professional strategic selling.

The second player wearing No. 18 this season is freshman linebacker, Gaven Haselhorst. Haselhorst is another Kansas product out of Hays High School in Hays, Kansas.

The three-star prospect was ranked the No. 22 inside linebacker in the nation out of high school. After watching some of his film and Twitter videos, K-State fans have a reason for excitement.

A weight room junkie, Haselhorst is seen here completing a backflip followed by nine bench press reps at 300 pounds.

Haselhorst joined the track team for the first time as a senior, later breaking the school record in the shot put after only five meets.

It is unlikely Haselhorst will shift around on the field, as head coach Chris Klieman already sees Haselhorst as someone prepared at the linebacker spot.

“We see him at the next-level being an inside linebacker, just how physical he is,” Klieman said in an interview with K-State Athletics. “He doesn’t get blocked. He plays the game the right way. He understands the game of football well, so it gives us some really good young players in there to be able to build off of.”

If anything else, it is clear to the coaching staff that Haselhorst is excited to play the game.

“You’re not going to see a kid that loves the game and plays the game as hard as Gaven does on an every-down basis,” Klieman said.

In high school, Haselhorst was named to the Kansas Football Coaches Association Top-11 team and was named a first-team all-state honoree by the Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita Eagle and Sports in Kansas. Sports in Kansas named Haselhorst a 5A Defensive Player of the Year finalist.

Statistically, Haselhorst racked up 211 tackles during his career, with an impressive 54 of those for a loss. Haselhorst carried that success into the Kansas Shrine Bowl, where he gathered four tackles – three of which were for a loss.

The hard-hitting linebacker stands at 6 foot, 221 pounds, and will likely make a name for himself by using his talent correctly. He has the potential to play a large role for the Wildcats if he can impress the coaching staff. Academically, Haselhorst plans on majoring in sports nutrition.