When Josh Rivas showed up at Kansas State, he was an overweight, out-of-shape teenager.
Now a redshirt freshman, Rivas has cut about 60 pounds and is competing to earn a starting guard spot on an offensive line that brings back all five starters from 2017. He has come a long way.
At Hutchinson High, Rivas was a 6-foot-6, 335-pound body-mover. He wasn’t a left or right tackle. The Salthawks’ coaches moved him to whichever side they decided to run the ball. It gave the direction of the play away, but it worked.
Hutchinson almost had four 1,000-yard rushers during Rivas’ senior year in 2016. He was so effective, he was named the AVCTL I MVP. His former coach Ryan Cornelsen said he wasn’t sure whether he had ever heard of an offensive lineman earning MVP honors.
“He deserved it, too,” Cornelsen said in 2016.
Rivas was named to the Eagle’s Top 11 Team and was the only area player to go on to play for K-State on a scholarship.
By high school standards, Rivas had outstanding movement for his size. But when he got to Manhattan, the coaches saw him differently.
Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey said it’s not uncommon for freshmen offensive linemen to show up to summer camp overweight. Players are used to being able to overwhelm the competition with sheer size. But that wasn’t going to work in the Big 12.
“It takes some real discipline and some real effort, and he’s done that,” Dickey said. “It’s been a real plus, and it’s helped us tremendously. It’s made a difference for him, and I’m proud of him that he’s done that.”
Dickey got Rivas on a dietary plan with K-State nutritionist Scott Trausch and had him spend a lot of time with Chris Dawson, K-State’s strength and conditioning coach. Slowly the pounds started to shed.
Dickey said Rivas is “night and day” from last year.
Rivas is listed at 310 pounds now, but Dickey said at his most, Rivas was at least 60 pounds heavier than that. Although it was common to see overweight freshmen linemen, it wasn’t typical to see players cut half a hundred pounds — in a year, no less.
“He just made a commitment,” Dickey said. “He’s always been very strong and good in the weight room, but it just takes discipline to watch your weight and watch what you eat.”
At K-State Media Day on Aug. 6, Rivas was one of the only offensive linemen who got praise outside of the starting five. Those positions are coveted and won’t be easily earned.
The Wildcats had the second-best rushing offense in the Big 12 last season, behind only conference champion Oklahoma. One job is almost guaranteed to be locked down outside of injury, as All-Big 12 first-team selection Dalton Risner returns for his senior season.
So that leaves four spots. But coach Bill Snyder likes what he sees in Rivas.
“He’s got a chance,” he said. “He’s going to be very competitive for a starting spot, in all honesty.”
The fact that Rivas’ name is coming up in conversation is almost remarkable in itself, considering the path he took to get where he is. Snyder said the most important thing with Rivas is that he realized his weight was important.
“He lost a lot of it in a heartbeat,” he said. “Now he has some other things to work on. Being a young pup as he is, every minute of every day becomes so significant for him.”