When Kansas State right tackle Dalton Risner was a freshman he sat in the back of a crowded room and listened as the captains on that football team led a players-only meeting. It was 2015 and the Wildcats were struggling at 3-6, but they finished the season strong enough to win six games and reach the Liberty Bowl.
Three years later, he’s hoping history will repeat itself.
“We had a players-only meeting last night,” Risner said. “We talked for about 30 minutes, probably the longest players-only meeting we have had here at K-State. It was really, really beneficial and gave me a lot of energy and excitement moving forward.”
It’s hard to quantify the meaning of players-only meetings in today’s sports landscape. They happen so often that they are becoming cliche. By no means do they guarantee improved results on the football field.
But the Wildcats tend to treat them like trick plays, calling upon only at rare times so they can be effective. Coming off a pair of narrow losses to Texas and Baylor, this week seemed like a good time for K-State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) to talk about a few things.
“Let’s not wait until we are 2-6,” Risner said. “I wanted to get the team together right now.”
Here are some of the topics Risner, the only K-State player to speak with media on Tuesday, said the Wildcats discussed Monday behind closed doors:
- Preseason expectations vs. what the team can still achieve during its final six games.
- What the captains think about the season so far.
- Game situations in which K-State needs to display more energy.
- Suggestions to improve practice
“Sometimes, as a football team, you need to just get together and talk as a team,” Risner said. “You just got to talk as brothers. We are a family, and sometimes you have to get everything out there positive and negative. I feel like that was needed ...
“It wasn’t about what the coaches can do different, what the community can do different, what everyone else can do different. It was what can we do different as players ... What we can change is what we do and who we are. That is what we talked a lot about. It was really, really good.”
K-State football coach Bill Snyder consented to the meeting beforehand.
“I trust Dalton, and Dalton wanted to talk with the players and elicit thoughts from the players at the same time,” Snyder said. “We’ve done it before. You’ve got to have a great deal of trust in your players to consent, to allow that to happen, although they have control over whether they get together or not. I think it went well.”
The players-only meeting comes at a crucial juncture for this K-State team. The Wildcats have shown flashes of improvement in their past two games, fighting back from a big halftime deficit during a 19-14 loss to Texas and producing a 250-yard rusher (Alex Barnes) in a 37-34 loss at Baylor.
A home game with Oklahoma State is up next. The Cowboys are favored by a touchdown, but they are also coming off a 48-42 loss to Iowa State. This feels like another toss-up game.
The stakes could make things even more interesting. Oklahoma State needs a win to stay in the Big 12 championship mix. K-State needs a win to enhance its postseason resume.
“We can’t remember the last time we haven’t made a bowl game,” Risner said. “We want to be bowl eligible and we realize we have six games left to make that happen.”
K-State players discussed all that and more behind closed doors earlier this week.
Time will tell if it has a positive impact on the football field. But, for now, it boosted team spirit.
“We are a good football team,” Risner said. “We aren’t getting beat by 30 or 40 points and not doing anything productive. We are taking good things from every game. We are having these good games against Texas, who is apparently a top 10 in the country. They just beat a tough Oklahoma team. We played Texas extremely well.
“We played Baylor extremely well and they played well on Saturday. We just have to continue moving forward and realize that we are a good football team and there are a lot of expectations and goals we can still reach this season.”