Van Malone explains why he is so active on social media for K-State football
As a newcomer to the Kansas State football team, running back James Gilbert could be forgiven for not knowing much about cornerbacks coach Van Malone.
They work on opposite sides of the field and didn’t speak during the recruiting process that bought Gilbert to K-State as a graduate transfer from Ball State a few months ago. They easily could be strangers.
But Malone has far too big of a personality for that.
“I caught that when I first got here,” Gilbert said. “I took one look at him and was like, dang, this guy has got a lot of energy.”
Indeed, it’s hard to miss Malone. He is outgoing on social media and one of the best follows associated with K-State football, always posting humorous photos and videos that promote the Wildcats with recruits. He also seems to be everywhere in practice, zooming around the field and teaching cornerbacks with the enthusiasm of a mascot.
Some coaches describe practice as a grind. Not Malone. After playing defensive back at Texas and then the Detroit Lions he has tried to jazz things up as much as possible throughout his 20 year coaching career, which has featured stops at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and SMU.
“He is funny. He is energetic,” K-State nickelback Walter Neil said. “I feel like he is exactly what the corners need. To let them play with that swagger and to play with the ferociousness that they need to.”
Translation: he is a player’s coach.
“Some days it’s just hard,” Malone said. “You had a test, you had a paper and you had them both on the same day. Now you come out to football and it’s hot and you stayed up all night. My job is to provide a spark for you.”
Maybe that means telling a joke. Maybe that means racing players as they warm up. Maybe it means a chest bump after a big play. Malone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep K-State players focused.
“I want to get you to listen and get you to do the things that, if you had to do it yourself, you probably wouldn’t do,” Malone said. “Not many people would go out and practice in 90-degree weather for two hours. That is where I come in. I help you to see this is a good thing that you are doing. If i can get your energy high and your intensity level up and keep you locked in for two hours, then we have gotten better.”
When K-State football players say they feel more energy at practices this spring while working with new head coach Chris Klieman and his assistants, Malone is one of the main reasons why.
His coaching tactics stand out.
“He is one of those guys that loves being around the guys,” K-State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton said. “He loves interacting with them and loves getting on them, talking trash to them or staying in their hip. He is a great positive energy guy and you need those guys on staff.”
Malone showed off his coaching personality during a recent practice video, produced by K-State, by cracking jokes, referring to his cornerbacks as “ballers” and even taking a sideline hit.
His personality has made him a popular coach in practice and on the recruiting trail.
“I am pretty light-hearted,” Malone said. “I’m not a yeller. I tell recruits this: If you need someone to curse you out and treat you like an animal (don’t come to K-State). There are some people out there who think that is coaching and that is what they need. I’m a teacher and it is my job to teach you what we want you to do. It is my job to show you the path and for me to demand that you get there the best way that you can with the highest amount of effort that you can.”
Malone is the type of coach who thinks practice is fun. And he is enjoying the heck out of his early time at K-State, where he is in charge of one position on defense. That’s a big change from his last two jobs as a defensive analyst at Mississippi State and the defensive coordinator at SMU.
He says it’s fun to be in charge, but it’s refreshing to focus on a small area of a team and help in new ways. He’s sad spring practices are about to end, and he hopes K-State players feel the same way.
“You may have the opportunity to play in the NFL, but that won’t last for long. Then it’s done and you become an old man like me,” Malone said. “I want to let these players know how special and blessed they are to be college football players and teach them to cherish and relish each of these days they have. That is important to me, because if I had a different body I would love to get back out there and play a little bit more.”