Denzel Goolsby looked forward to sharing his Kansas State football career with his father, Les. They had four seasons to hug after victories, talk through tough times and experience Big 12 football. They recently patched up old differences, visited campus together and prepared to enjoy the culmination of years of hard work.
On Wednesday, Les Goolsby passed away after suffering a brain aneurysm. Denzel drove back from Manhattan, where he had started summer workouts, to see his father on life support.
“I woke up in Manhattan to a lot of missed calls and text messages,” he said. “I had to come home to say my last words to him. That’s a lot to handle driving back from K-State.”
Denzel Goolsby, who played running back on two Kansas Class 5A champions at Bishop Carroll, won the Barry Sanders High School Male Athlete of the Year award at Thursday’s Greater Wichita Sports Banquet at Hyatt Regency Wichita. He dedicated the honor to his father and gave an emotional speech rewarded with a standing ovation from the crowd and a call to prayer from emcee Brett Harris.
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“He is a big reason why I am the person I am,” Goolsby said of his father. “I’m a firm believer in work ethic being something that is passed along. He had the drive to get up every single day and work hard and never complain.”
Goolsby started four seasons at Carroll and earned Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and Wichita Eagle Top 11 honors. He had 1,641 rushing yards on 162 carries last fall with 16 receptions and seven touchdowns.
“You’re nothing without your teammates,” he said. “My successes are really just a reflection of their hard work. My offensive line was up front, doing the dirty work.”
Goolsby, because of his duties at Kansas State, didn’t plan on attending the banquet and named a grade-school coach to accept the award on his behalf. His father’s death changed his plans and he spent some of his time at home searching for support. He found a story on the Internet about golf balls, which he said originally had with a smooth surface. Golfers found the balls worked better worn and dented. Golf balls, of course, are dimpled.
“At the end of the day, I’m kind of like a golf ball,” he said. “We get dented, and we think it might be a bad thing, but at the end of the day that’s just God denting us and redesigning us so we can go farther.”
Southern Cal catcher Garrett Stubbs won the Johnny Bench National Collegiate Catcher of the Year honor. Stubbs, who signed with the Astros after being picked in the eighth round, earned American Baseball Coaches Association Gold Glove and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-America honors from Baseball America and the ABCA.
LSU’s Kade Scivicque and Matt Winn of Virginia Military Institute were the other finalists.
Wichita State took both of the College Athlete of the Year honors with basketball players Tekele Cotton and Alex Harden, now with the Phoenix Mercury.
“She was a phenomenal person,” WSU women’s coach Jody Adams said. “She believed the tough road would lead to the high road. I’m very blessed to have been her coach.”
Cotton recently completed workouts with NBA teams Houston, Toronto, Detroit and Oklahoma City.
“To work with Tekele, he was never late, he was always asking for more,” WSU assistant coach Greg Heiar said. “He was a nobody when he came to Wichita State. He went to the NCAA Tournament four straight years. But he’s a better person than he is a basketball player. We’re honored that we had him in our basketball program.”
Former Wichita State baseball player Eric Wedge, who played in the major leagues and managed Cleveland and Seattle, gave the keynote speech emphasized the importance of taking care of other people and taking care of life matters off the field. He credited former Shockers who stayed close to the program with pushing he and his teammates on their way to the 1989 College World Series title.
“One of the reasons I have the toughness I have is Wichita State,” he said. “That’s the way it was. That’s what I tried to do. If anybody tells you you don’t have responsibility as an athlete, especially a professional athlete, they’re crazy.”
Wedge was named Manager of the Year for Cleveland in 2007. He managed Seattle from 2011-2013 before quitting when he grew disastisfied with management. He now works for ESPN as a commentator.
“You’re not allowed to punch your bosses, so I had to leave,” he said.