Kansas State football finds walk-on success from Kansas natives
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- When it comes to Kansas State football success stories, Jonathan Truman's is hardly unique.
Countless former walk-ons have gone on to excel in a Wildcat program that prides itself on nurturing and developing in-state talent.
In fact, three of the Wildcats senior captains -- Truman, center B.J. Finney and defensive end Ryan Mueller -- are Kansas natives who arrived in Manhattan without scholarships.
But that does not diminish Truman's accomplishments as he worked his way from weight-room workout wonder to special teams ace and last year as a junior to starting weak-side linebacker.
"It's the quality of character and the value system that Jonathan possesses that is so valuable," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "He is a bright young guy.
"His journey has been one of hard work and doing things right. That is Jonathan."
Not only did Truman step into a lineup last season that featured nine new starters. He excelled beyond expectations, ranking second on the team to senior linebacker Blake Slaughter in tackles with 89, including 4 1/2 for loss and two forced fumbles.
Now, with the departure of both Slaughter and Tre Walker, he is the lone returning starter at linebacker and the de facto leader of that position group.
"Last year I learned a lot," said Truman, who must now pass his knowledge on to a young group of returning players as well as late-arriving junior college transfers D'Vonta Derricott and Isaiah Riddle. "The experience I have is something you can't really replace.
"It really just comes down to the preparation we have as a team, as a defense as a whole, I guess."
Though the Wildcats list three linebackers in their base defense, they went with their nickel package most of the time, employing a fifth defensive back. Truman, at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, showed enough versatility to stay on the field along with Slaughter while run-stopping specialist Walker went to the sideline.
"In the Big 12 there's a ton of fast-tempo spread offenses, so we've got to be ready for the speed of the offense and we've got to be ready for both the run and the pass," Truman said of the two-linebacker set. "The two linebackers that are in, no matter what down it is or what situation, we have to be ready for whatever the offense can bring at us."
It is that knowledge and experience that makes Truman a key to the Wildcats' defensive success, especially at the second level.
"There's an added responsibility when it comes to being a senior and a team captain," Truman said. "Just from being here and knowing the system, there's an added responsibility of doing things right.
"When you're a vocal leader and you can back up what you say, that gains a respect from a lot of people."
Truman said he continues to work at becoming a vocal leader.
"When I first showed up in the first few years I was more of a lead-by-example kind of guy, and even now that's more what I may lean towards," he said. "I'm trying to get better at being a little more vocal and communicating better with the guys and I'm not changing my personality at all.
"Being the hoo-rah guy, that's not really me. But just saying things, when people hear me say something, they'll know that I mean it because I don't say that much anyway."
Either way, Truman's actions speak volumes by themselves, according to defensive coordinator Tom Hayes.
"He knows how to play," Hayes said. "He's really a good player on our team and I'm really proud of him.
"He's one that we can put in front of all our other players and show them, 'You work like this guy works and you can do the same thing.' "
"He is a good leader first and foremost because he sets the example," Snyder said. "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."
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