Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected for accuracy regarding which organization received donations. Donations were made to the Nelson Family Community Foundation. The Collegian apologizes for this error.
It was a great day for Kansas State fans as the Jordy Nelson Legends Classic softball game provided a fun environment for family, friends and former players participating in the event.
“I think it’s very unique,” Host Jordy Nelson said about having the event in Manhattan at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “Hopefully, it will allow more people to come. We tried to keep the tickets at a reasonable price so that families could be here because I wanted families to be here. I tweeted out today ‘Sunday Funday’ so bring the family to the ballpark.”
Nelson has played the game for multiple years now, donating proceeds and other donations to charities in the surrounding area.
This year, donations went toward the Nelson Family Community Foundation and providing a scholarship to one walk-on K-State player.
Nelson wasn’t alone in getting proceeds donated to the organization. The People’s State Bank in Manhattan also helped donate $50,000 to Nelson for his cause.
“We’re really looking forward to making that happen,” Mark Post, credit analyst at People’s State Bank, said. “That was one of the main things we were trying to work towards to get this thing built up and do, so we wanted to help them do that. We love the opportunity to be able to do that. That’s what PSB is about, but more than that, it’s great for Jordy and his group … we’re glad to be a part of it.”
Nelson provided the walk-on scholarship to K-State linebacker Ryan Henington.
“It’s special,” Henington said. “It’s a dream come true, and it’s something that I’ve been working towards since I’ve been here, so I’m extremely blessed and grateful for it.”
Henington, a senior out of Junction City, was first recruited as a quarterback before switching to defense, playing safety this past season and finding a starting spot at linebacker to begin this season.
“He epitomizes what K-State football is all about.” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “He’s worked extremely hard, and when I came here, he was a quarterback. We knew he was athletic and we gave him a chance to move around on special teams and do some things there, then he moved and played some safety for us last year, and then in the spring of 2021 we said, ‘Hey Ryan, we’re going to move you to linebacker,’ and he won a job in the spring and earned a scholarship from us … I’m excited for him to carry the legacy of the walk-ons.”
Nelson came to K-State as a walk-on player out of Riley County, making the most of his time playing football for the Wildcats. He said he wants to make sure that the unseen players on the team get the recognition they deserve.
“It’s big,” Nelson said. “Coach Snyder had a great tradition of guys walking on working extremely hard and getting on the field and then rewarding them with a scholarship, so it will be fun to recognize that kid today and just continue to keep that tradition in the limelight for all kids, but mainly for Kansas kids that might not get the same opportunity because they might be at a smaller school or people might think that because you’re in Kansas that you can’t play football. But we’ve seen enough of them come through this program that have paved the way for me, and I hope I did the same for others and we’ll keep promoting it.”
Former K-State College Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder talked about how Nelson is now providing the scholarship to a walk-on like himself.
“I think it’s significant from where it’s coming from,” Snyder said. “Jordy was a walk-on here at our program, earned a scholarship and a significant number of guys that are out here today were walk-ons and earned scholarships … it was really kind of what our program was all about. Earn your way, climb the ladder based on what your values are and your capabilities, and they’ve done that, and this is an opportunity for all these guys to get together and relish in the fact that they worked their way to help make this what it is today.”
Snyder was honored at the event, throwing out the first pitch of the game.
K-State legend Bill Snyder throwing out the first pitch at the Jordy Nelson Legends Softball game! pic.twitter.com/87MJ0Y3KYX
— Colin Settle (@Colin_Settle) September 12, 2021
Former K-State running back David Allen (1996-1999) also said it is important to recognize players who walk on at the Division I level.
“I don’t think people really understand how important those guys are to the team,” Allen said. “Guys who get all the glory — everybody already knows their name, and it really has to do with the names of guys that people don’t know. Like the Jordy Nelson’s or the guys that don’t necessarily become the Jordy Nelson’s. The guys that come out here just because they love the game. They don’t get notoriety, and some of them don’t even get to play. But they come out here every single day, busting their butts, and without those guys, there aren’t guys like me, like Jordy. There is no team.”
Henington said the opportunity he has been given will not go to waste.
“I think I have a lot of people that are counting on me and I just know the sacrifices that my family has made,” Henington said. “My parents, my mom and my dad, people that have played such an instrumental role in my life that have done so much for me, and I just want to make them proud … I just want to give them everything I’ve got.”
The “Legends” in the Legends Classic played up to the name, with Nelson hitting 18 home runs in the home run derby, linebacker Jeff Kelly (1997-1998) hitting homers and running around the bases and receiver Darnell McDonald (1997-1998) hitting a home run against Nelson at his own event.
“It’s awesome,” Nelson said. “When I started putting this together and started thinking of the people that I wanted to come and play, I went back to when I was a kid sitting in the south end zone and thought about who I grew up watching, and I kind of became a fanboy, like, ‘This is who I watched and this is who I want to be here,’ and I tried to get it all mixed together and it came together well.”
Two “Legends” — including Allen and former women’s basketball star Megan Mahoney (2001-2005) — said the new Shamrock Zone and other projects in the works are important to the university and players.
“It’s amazing because it’s come a long way,” Allen said. “Even when we got here, the things that they were able to do while we were here we thought ‘Oh my gosh, we got a new west side’ and now you come back and you look at it now and it was nothing compared to what it is now. It’s just a good thing to see how far K-State has come and how far K-State athletics and the football program have come, being able to build these types of facilities for the players and for the community.”
Mahoney hit on the importance of competing with other schools to be the best at providing support for K-State athletes.
“Well, when I came back two years ago, I kind of got a tour of the new facilities and they’re just amazing,” Mahoney said. “I thought they were great when I was here, but I suppose when you’re trying to compete with other big schools, you have to keep up with the Joneses. I think they’re doing a great job here with the beautiful facilities and state-of-the-art facilities for the athletes to continue to grow and get better and it’s just cool. I love being back.”
Coach Snyder said this has been a work in progress for many years now at this point.
“We started a long time ago,” Snyder said. “I didn’t want to do everything at once for a variety of different reasons — one being I didn’t want to create more seats than what we had in the stands — so it was a perfect way to add on to the stadium and to add a nice area to the stadium. Being able to house more people than we were going to be able to get. It’s worked out well and people have been responsive and I can appreciate having a lot of great fans that have supported it and contributed over the years to make it all happen.”
Nelson said the event was an overall success and a fun event for the players and friends and families who attended.
“I think it’s a fun event, especially when we get it up and running and people are getting a feel for what it is and who we’ll have here and the interactions that they will be able to have with the players,” Nelson said. “I know that all the players that came back are enjoying it and are seeing everyone, so I think it’s fun.”
Nelson capped the day off by winning his own event with a walk-off home run shot to end the seven-inning Legends Classic game.
JORDY WINS IT WITH A WALKOFF! pic.twitter.com/gB9kWMse2Q
— Colin Settle (@Colin_Settle) September 12, 2021