When a Kansas State football coach informs a walk-on player that he has earned a scholarship, it’s usually a matter-of-fact conversation.
Congratulations. We’re proud of you. Here’s your reward ... That kind of stuff. There’s rarely any creativity involved.
But the Wildcats mixed things up for Blake Lynch. When the coaching staff decided to promote the 5-foot-5 sophomore kicker from Goddard Eisenhower to scholarship status after he won the starting job and then made four field goals in K-State’s opening victory over South Dakota, they definitely got creative.
Here’s how it went down: At the end of a recent practice, K-State coach Bill Snyder gathered every player on the roster and addressed the team at midfield. When he finished speaking, he asked for questions. Right tackle Dalton Risner threw his right hand into the air and blurted one out.
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When are we going to put Blake Lynch on scholarship?
A stunned group of players, including Lynch, knelt in an awkward silence until special teams coordinator Sean Snyder jumped in with some words of his own.
K-State players rushed to Lynch and lifted him into the air.
“It was pretty special,” Lynch said.
No kidding. Lynch now has one of the best rags-to-riches stories in all of college football. Much has been made about his size and how K-State’s shortest player manages to make a big impact. But there’s more to him than that. He’s also one of the Wildcats’ hardest workers. That much is obvious by the job he took to pay for his first few years of college — janitor.
And not just any janitor. He worked as a janitor for K-State’s athletic department, arriving to team headquarters early to fix leaky pipes and staying late to clean the locker room. Lynch is a handyman who grew up working for his father’s roofing company in Wichita, so he liked the job. He even plans to go back to it after the season.
Still, he barely had enough free time to sleep between classes, practice and work. Teammates joked he needed to get a cot set up in the locker room.
“We would all be leaving practice and Blake Lynch would be scrubbing the floors,” Risner said. “Now he is a starting kicker who worked his way up from third string at the start of camp. I’m extremely happy for him.”
That might explain why K-State players are so eager to celebrate with Lynch after all of his successful kicks.
They have gotten plenty of opportunities. Lynch has made seven of eight field goals this season, including a long of 44 yards.
“It’s just amazing to see someone like Blake Lynch come such a long way,” defensive tackle Joe Davies said.
Bill Snyder lights up every time someone asks about his kicker. It seems like just yesterday when he talked his way onto the team as an insurance option on special teams.
“He is a guy who really works at it, really stays focused,” Snyder said. “He is a wonderful example for people in our program of how an individual can improve his play week in and week out, day in and day out. I can remember when he couldn’t hit it from here to the wall, and now all of a sudden he is a pretty accurate field-goal kicker from range. He did that. I am very proud of him.”
Lynch didn’t seriously pursue football until his sophomore year of high school, when former K-State kicker Anthony Cantele taught him how to make the switch from soccer. Now he resembles Cantele on the gridiron, and he is still getting better.
He certainly kicks the ball longer than most expect. By focusing on contact instead of leverage or his approach, he has improved the distance and height of his kicks. K-State fans worried all offseason about who would replace Matthew McCrane, the most accurate kicker in school history. Lynch eased their concerns immediately.
In time, Lynch hopes he is good enough to be known more for his kicking abilities than his size or journey.
Yes, he’s short. Yes, he’s a janitor. No, he doesn’t think any of this is surreal.
“This is the goal,” Lynch said. “This is why we are all here, to start and to play. I always knew if I worked hard I would get my opportunity.”