PHOENIX — The way Kansas State guards the status of injured players, it was surprising that wide receiver Dalton Schoen was one of five Wildcats available for interviews at the Cactus Bowl media day Saturday.
Schoen was injured in the West Virginia game Nov. 11, missing the Oklahoma State and Iowa State games with a broken collarbone. His presence for interviews Saturday would indicate he would be able to play against UCLA on Tuesday, but it’s not definite.
“I can’t give a definite yes or no on that, but I’ve been working out, trying to get back into it,” Schoen said.
Schoen was a major storyline for the Wildcats this season. A sophomore walk-on, his first career reception was a 70-yard touchdown in the opening game against Central Arkansas. His playing time increased and he became the Wildcats’ most reliable, sure-handed receiver with 23 catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns until the injury took him out.
“When it happened, it felt exactly like when it happened before,” he said. “I broke it when I was a little kid, not real bad, and again my junior year of high school and had to have surgery. It’s definitely not a good feeling.
“It hurts to sit and watch because you’re not doing anything to help the team. It made it a little easier to see how the team performed against Oklahoma State and Iowa State and get two huge wins.”
Schoen’s breakout season was rewarded when he was placed on scholarship.
“The end of October, coach (Andre) Coleman told me to come see him in his office after practice,” Schoen said. “I went up there and he told me and called my parents.
“It’s something I dreamed about my whole life. Coming here as a walk-on was tough but my goal was just to get on the field and play and help this team. Getting put on scholarship was icing on the cake for me.”
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder actually took a little time away from preparing for UCLA to host a family dinner Friday night.
“For the most part it’s just work,” Snyder said when asked if he makes time for fun on bowl trips. “My family is pretty good about taking care of themselves. We’ve never spent a Christmas any place but a hotel so they kind of have that down pat. One of my children was telling me when that time comes, they won’t know how to handle a Christmas at home because they’ve never had Christmas at home.
“I took the opportunity (Friday) night to take my family to dinner. All of them couldn’t go, but I didn’t realize how many I had until I got the bill. There were 17 of us and it was hard to find a place to house 17 of us together.”
Snyder had his own form of holiday feast with a cup of coffee, which he hasn’t had since beginning treatments for throat cancer nearly a year ago.
“I had my first cup of coffee when we came out on the plane two days ago,” he said. “I can’t taste it but I had it.”
Snyder is in his 26th season as head coach at K-State and in his 19th bowl game, while the other sideline will be manned by Jedd Fisch, the UCLA interim coach who led the Bruins to victory over Cal after Jim Mora was fired.
“I looked it up last night and he has been a head coach for 320 games and this is my second, but I have a better winning percentage,” Fisch said. “He’s an icon in this industry. Anybody that knows college football respects everything coach Snyder has done.
“It’s one of those moments in football where you want to make sure you get a picture with him before the game. When you’re coaching against the guys that are on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches, you want to make sure you can celebrate on their successes.”
Fisch — whose future hasn’t been announced with Chip Kelly hired as UCLA’s new coach — was an assistant at Miami when the Hurricanes played K-State in the 2011-12 seasons.
“Both times we were on the losing end,” Fisch said.