Anyone who thinks there is no glory in special-teams blocking has never met Trent Tanking.
The junior Kansas State linebacker speaks so enthusiastically about his work on kick and punt returns that he could be an ambassador for unsung special-teams contributors.
Anytime return men Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath score, Tanking says it feels like he scores, too.
“Our big thing is we all want to be the first one down there after he scores a touchdown to be able to hug him and celebrate with him,” Tanking said. “A kick return is such a long play, to be able to take it all the way to house means all 11 guys are doing their job, including Byron. We take just as much pride in it as he does.”
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Tanking has played a key role in many of K-State’s big returns this season, taking good angles and making blocks that provide Pringle and Heath room to run. Both have scored touchdowns on returns this season. His teammates say Tanking is a key reason why the Wildcats rank seventh nationally in kick returns (470 yards) and 19th in punt returns (173 yards).
He has also made 10 tackles on K-State’s coverage teams.
It’s not the work he dreamed of when he joined the Wildcats as a walk-on out of Holton, but he has learned to love it.
“Every walk-on has that point where sometimes you are wondering,” Tanking said. “You see all these other students and you are paying for school just like they are and you are doing all this on top of it, but being able to play on Saturdays makes it all worth it. Being able to make a play and make a tackle and hear 50,000 fans scream makes it worth it.”
Tanking was lightly recruited out of high school, but he did have scholarship offers at the Division II level. He visited several schools, but chose K-State after meeting the coaching staff.
He was sold on his future with the Wildcats, no matter what it entailed.
“I grew up a Kansas State fan and I want to do anything I can to help us win,” Tanking said. “When they asked me to play kickoff my freshman year, all I wanted to do was get on the field. That passion hasn’t changed. I just love playing. I will do whatever they ask me to do.
“If they ask me to play linebacker, I will do that at 100 percent. But, right now, I am playing on special teams and I will do that with all my heart, too.”
Tanking quickly impressed K-State coaches with his selfless approach.
After two years on special teams, linebackers coach Mike Cox called Tanking into his office and awarded him a scholarship.
“It was the greatest feeling,” Tanking said. “I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.”
Just like he can’t wait to block on K-State’s next kick return.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Texas at Kansas State
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
Other story lines
QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS: Jesse Ertz injured his right shoulder while playing against Oklahoma last week, but he is expected to start against Texas on Saturday. Will he be at full strength? If not, will we see Joe Hubener or Alex Delton? Bill Snyder said earlier this week K-State has a clear-cut quarterback hierarchy. Ertz is first, followed by Hubener and then Delton.
OWNING TEXAS: The days of K-State owning Texas are over, but the Wildcats still hold a considerable edge over the Longhorns at home. Texas hasn’t won at Snyder Family Stadium since 2002.
FORMIDABLE RUNNER: K-State’s defense has shut down the run this season, but it will face a difficult test in Texas running back D’Onta Foreman, who is averaging 146.2 yards on the ground.