Support from Weis, fans motivates football team

Kansas coach Charlie Weis supported his players through thick and thin in his first year in Lawrence. He dedicated all of last week to the seniors and did as much as he could to promote Senior Night and encourage fans to attend the game, even allowing free admittance for students who hadn’t purchased tickets beforehand. The seniors knew what Weis had done all week. However, there was one more thing Weis had to offer his seniors.

The players went to the locker room after pregame warmups and were astounded to discover black throwback jerseys waiting to be worn. It was one last motivational tool used by Weis to add excitement for the players, the seniors specifically.

The players hoped that Saturday night would be the night where they’d have a different uniform to wear. But at some point before the game, the players came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen. The players already sported their traditional blue-on-white home attire, only to find out right before the game that they’d be going with a black-on-black look complete with white helmets featuring a Jayhawk.

“We actually talked before the game about wearing our throwbacks,” said offensive guard Duane Zlatnik. “We walked in after our pregame meal and were all kind of disappointed that we didn’t have anything. Then we went out, warmed up, and did our Senior Day thing. When we walked back into the locker room, I was one of the first ones in there and we were all pumped.”

Weis wanted to help the seniors go out on a positive note after all they had gone through during their college careers; most of these players experienced three different head coaches during their time as a Jayhawk. Many players felt the bittersweet vibe during the pregame ceremonies for Senior Night. Their families waited as the seniors had their names announced and were treated to a special video tribute.

Although the Senior Night festivities didn’t translate to a win Saturday night, Weis has no regrets about the week-long preparation for the Senior Night game.

“I wanted to do something special for the seniors,” he said. “It didn’t work, but I’ll tell you what­— I’m always going to be trying stuff to get something to work. I’ll never stop trying. I’ll always keep trying.”

Quarterback Dayne Crist, who played under Weis at Notre Dame before the two reunited in Kansas, said Weis’s attempt to make the seniors feel special was well-received. Crist said he was not surprised by what Weis did for the seniors and will always appreciate that about him.

“Everything he does is from the heart,” Crist said. “As players, it is something that we felt great about, knowing that he cared enough about us to make this week about the seniors. He didn’t have to do things, like buy the extra seats for the seniors. But he did, and that just speaks volumes about the type of guy he is and the type of commitment he has to his players.”

Despite knowing most of the seniors for less than a year, Weis played a big influence on the players’ lives. Safety Bradley McDougald approached Weis before the game and thanked him for everything that he did for Kansas this season.

Support from fans also motivated the players this season. McDougald and his teammates noticed a sign in the student section each game that read, “We still believe.” This helped inspire McDougald and the rest of the seniors to not give up on one another.

McDougald and defensive end Toben Opurum walked off the field together after Saturday’s loss while the senior video tribute was played one last time. McDougald told Opurum that even though they may have lost many games, a select few could do what they’ve done and deal with the obstacles and challenges they were faced with.

“To come back and battle every week, day in and day out, it shows our mentality and you can knock us down, but we’re going to get up every time,” McDouglad said. “Knowing that I got guys like that who are willing to do it with me, week in and week out, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

  • Updated Nov. 18, 2012 at 8:39 pm
  • Edited by Joanna Hlavacek