Dalton Schoen has been known for many different things during his time as a Kansas State football player.
At first, he was simply a walk-on. Next, he was an over-achiever. After that, he became an integral part of the Wildcats’ offense.
Now comes something new — best receiver on the team.
“I’m definitely excited for it,” Schoen said. “I’m ready, I guess, just to go out there and try to lead this group of receivers. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are hungry, willing to put in the work. I’m excited just to invest in them and see what we can do as a group.”
Don’t feel bad if you never saw Schoen, a 6-foot-1 senior from Overland Park, as the type of player who might lead a Big 12 offense in receptions, receiving yards or touchdowns. He’s still getting used to those possibilities himself.
This is what he wanted when he decided to pay his own way into college and joined K-State’s scout team coming out of Blue Valley Northwest four years ago. But he was also projected to be the Wildcats’ No. 3 receiver when spring practice came to an end two months ago.
Back then, it seemed like Hunter Rison (suspended indefinitely) and Isaiah Zuber (transferred to Mississippi State) were the odds-on favorites to make plays in the passing game next season. But now that they are no longer active members of the team, all eyes have shifted to Schoen as K-State’s oldest and most accomplished receiver.
His career numbers (55 catches for 990 yards and five touchdowns) dwarf those of everyone else at the position.
For that reason, and many others, new K-State coach Chris Klieman has already tabbed Schoen as a leader next to quarterback Skylar Thompson.
“We can’t have it all on Skylar,” Klieman said. “It’s got to come from a lot of those upperclassmen: the offensive line, and from Dalton. I’ve talked to Dalton on a couple of different occasions when we had some meetings of just, ‘It’s your time. You know the standard here. You know the expectations. Take some stuff off of Skylar’s plate. Put it on your own plate.’”
“A lot of people respect Dalton. Most of the football team announced him to me. I always ask guys, ‘Who do you really respect?’ His name gets brought up a bunch, so he needs to take that, take ownership in it and help Skylar. I think he can. I know he’s ready to do that. I know he’s excited about the challenge. I’m excited about the prospects of him having a really exceptional season.”
It will be fascinating to see what Schoen can accomplish as a go-to receiver.
Though he has slipped free for the occasional long touchdown catch, like the 82-yarder he snagged against Texas as a sophomore, he’s more of a possession receiver. He’s never caught more than five passes in a game.
He could lift K-State’s offense by catching more passes down field this season.
“I think I’ve tried to improve some fundamental-type things to kind of get in and out of routes quicker and just become a well-rounded receiver, just to get open other ways,” Schoen said. “I have had some success with deep balls, just kind of getting wide open off luck or off coverage, but I’ve been working on winning the one-on-one battles, trying to go out there and make the tough plays, because that’s something I’ve struggled with and something I’ve got to improve.”
Schoen will also do his best to help K-State’s young receivers adjust to a new offense.
The Wildcats will rely on Wykeen Gill and Malik Knowles in the passing game. Odds are good they also get Landry Weber, Phillip Brooks, Joshua Youngblood and Keenan Garber involved. None of them have eclipsed 100 receiving yards.
They will all look to do more next season. But they will need a No. 1 receiver to follow.
“You’ve got to go out there and be a little bit hungrier every day,” Schoen said. “But I’ve always tried to see myself as a leader of the receivers group. Being how it was or how it is now, how the dynamics change. I think it’s still the same thing. I’m going to lead the group by example and by pouring into those guys, coaching them up in the film room, on the field, whatever I can do, just make sure we’re good as a group, because it’s not just about me. It’s going to take a group of guys to do it.”