MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It was intimidating, nerve wrecking, to say the least.
Coming in as a freshman walk-on from Kechi, Kansas, the Jonathan Truman you'd meet five years ago was a lot different than the Jonathan Truman you'd meet today.
"When I was a freshman I struggled with my confidence level," said Truman, who is now senior and a team leader. "When I first showed up out of high school, it was really humbling. You think 'Am I really good enough?' Then you start doubting yourself. That's something that a lot of young guys struggle with, but that's where your coaches and your teammates come in. They say, 'Hey, this is realistic for you to do this,' and when I finally realized that this is reality for me, I just did it."
From day one of his redshirt year, Truman worked. He worked and worked and worked some more. During his freshman season (2011), the walk-on linebacker began to climb his way to the top. That year, he played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, mostly with the Wildcats' special teams.
"It took a lot," Truman said about his first two years in the program. "Just from working out and spending every day trying to get better. Then, I finally got on the field for special teams. I was making plays, and that helped boost my confidence. I realized the guys on the other side of the ball, they were student-athletes just as I was. So it's really no different, there was no reason to worry."
The following season, as a sophomore, Truman upped his game even more. He paced the squad with 12 special team tackles, including nine on kickoffs. He earned a spot as a reserve linebacker, but he didn't stop there - he continued to climb.
Last year, his junior year at K-State, he started all 13 games at linebacker. He finished the season second on the team with 89 tackles, including a career-best 13 against Oklahoma.But it wasn't just his skill set on the field that Truman worked to perfect. He had to gain weight, and the right kind of weight, he explained. He said from his freshman year to now, heading into his senior and final season at K-State, he has put on 28 pounds of muscle through his hard work.
"I needed to gain weight," he explained. "When I was a freshman, I weighed about 200 pounds, but being a linebacker, you need a little extra weight and it's got to be the correct weight. It can't just be fat. So I worked with [strength and conditioning] coach Chris Dawson. I worked out and ate right, that's helped a lot."
And he's gotten stronger, too. According to FOX Sports'Bruce Feldman, Truman is one of the Top 20 'Freaks' in college football for 2014. No. 18 on Feldman's list, Truman - possibly the strongest guy on this year's K-State football team - can bench press 430 pounds, squat 535 and clean 400. Get to know Truman, though, and you'll quickly learn there's nothing 'freakish' about him. Despite his immense strength, he's a soft-spoken, lead-by-example type of guy.
"He is a good leader, first and foremost, because he sets the example," said head coach Bill Snyder. "There is no player in our program that would not look at Jonathan and say, 'Hey, he works hard, does everything right, and does it the way you ask him to do it.' He's a good young guy."
It's taken him a lot of hard work and perseverance, but during his time at K-State, he's been able to inspire others. He became a team leader without having to say a word. His example -- his journey -- says it all.
"Jonathan Truman has never been a real talker, never really been loud, but he's a guy who leads by action," teammate Laton Dowling said. "He's always doing the right thing."
Heading into the 2014 season, K-State fans can look to Truman for consistency. He's worked hard day in and day out for the opportunity he holds in his hands, and one can bet he won't take it for granted.
"It is the quality of character and the value system that Jonathan possesses that is so valuable," Snyder said. "His journey has been one of hard work and doing things right. That's Jonathan. People look at those values that I keep coming back to. They are going to succeed somehow and some way, and he has done it."