Coming out of high school, Holcomb’s Blake Richmeier nearly signed at Fort Hays State to play football. But he wanted a chance to don the purple of white of Kansas State.
So he, under the guidance of K-State recruiters, decided to enroll at Butler Community College. After a season, he got that chance to walk-on at Kansas State.
On Tuesday, in his third year as a Wildcat, Richmeier returned to Finney County representing the Wildcats as part of a large contingent of Kansas State athletes, coaches and administrators attending the Finney County Catbackers event at Clarion Inn, including new head football coach Chris Klieman and head men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber.
“It’s pretty special,” Richmeier said of playing for K-State. “I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity I’ve been given, and it’s really been a fantastic ride I’ve been on. It’s kind of crazy I’m going into my last season here. I’m hoping for big things next season.”
Richmeier red-shirted in 2016, played sparingly on special teams in 2017 before getting a full-time spot on special teams in 2018.
“Coming out of high school, I was kind of the guy, and when you get to a big program like that, everybody was the guy,” Richmeier said of first playing at K-State. “It’s so much bigger. I had to work so much harder to even get on the field on special teams, which is what my role is right now.”
But he’s hoping to expand that role in the fall, which will be the first season under new head coach Chris Kliemann, who also attended Tuesday’s Catbacker event in Garden City.
“I was excited (to see Richmeier play during spring practices), because I know he played on some (special teams last year,” Kleiman said, “but he was beat up most of spring, so I’m looking forward to see him getting back to being healthy this summer and putting his best foot forward.”
The opportunity is there for him, Kleiman said.
“Really, we don’t have any jobs that are won right now,” he said. “We’re still trying to find players, so I’m counting on Blake. I know he was nicked up, but I’m counting on Blake coming back strong in the fall.”
It’s just going to take the type of physical and mental improvement Richmeier has had to accomplish every year since high school.
“Coming out of western Kansas, you’re definitely not prepared for” high-level college football, Richmeier said. “Butler helped me quite a bit playing with freak athletes, and then you get to K-State, and just the complexity of the defense — it probably took me a solid year to grasp all the little details.”
From reading pre-snap and post-snap keys, to running the defense, to being “clean” with his technique, the learning curve was — and in some cases still is — great for Richmeier.
And now he has to re-learn some of those things as he transitions from the coaching staff of Bill Snyder to Kleiman’s.
“Just new terminology,” Richmeier said. “Every coach has their own way of talking about their style of defense and offense the way they go about running their program.”
Kleiman said spring practices showed some steps forward in that regard for the entire program.
“It went well,” Kleiman said. “We got our 15 practices in and each day we got a little bit better. We’re closer to what we want to see with the implementation of how we practice.”
Those practices were enough to get Richmeier excited for the new direction for the Wildcats, post-Snyder.
“Playing under Bill Snyder has always been a dream of mine, and I thank him for taking a shot on me and letting me walk-on,” Richmeier said. “Being part of that program underneath him is truly special, and I’m extremely excited for this new era of football under coach Kleiman. I think he’s going to do great things and I’m really excited about him as a coach.”
And Richmeier said the goal is those great things don’t only come down the road, but during his senior season.
“One of the first statements Kleiman said when he spoke to us as a team for the first time was he’s not in the business of rebuilding programs,” Richmeier said. “He wants to win games. We want to win games right away.”
Event has big turnout
An annual dinner, the Finney County Catbackers event drew nearly 300 on Tuesday night, Kansas State Alumni Association county chairperson Grant Elpers said.
“The turnout is great this year,” Elpers said. “We had a really high registration for the event, and there was a lot of excitement for both coach Kleiman and coach Weber being here, and (soccer) coach (Mike) Dibbini. We have 11 student-athletes, so we got a really good turnout from Kansas State, so there’s a lot of energy.”
Football players Skylar Thompson, Scott Franz, Kyle Ball, Wyatt Hubert, Johnathan Durham, Jahron McPherson and Mike McCoy were in attendance, in addition to Richmeier.
The golf tournament that was set to be held on Tuesday as part of the event this year had to be rescheduled for May 30 due to the weather on Tuesday.