Travis Britz and Will Geary aren’t related. One is tall and clean shaven. The other looks like a lumberjack. They grew up in different towns in different states, and they didn’t meet until a few years ago when they became Kansas State football players.
That is all worth pointing out, because if you didn’t know any better, there is a good chance you might mistake them for brothers.
Britz and Geary play the same position, defensive tackle. Teammates refer to both of them as weight-room freaks, because they lift insane amounts. They even share the same sports history. In high school, they both excelled at football and wrestling. Today, they are roommates and close friends. They also form the most dependable part of K-State’s defense.
“We are very comfortable with each other,” Britz said. “I know how good Will is. He can throw a guy from here across the room if he wants to. It’s nice knowing that you have a guy like that next to you, because if he gets single-blocked, then he is going to win. We understand each other’s pass-rush moves and what we are going to do the instant we line up. We feed off each other.”
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In a season filled with inconsistencies and a disappointing 3-6 record, one source of constant pride within the team has been the play of Britz and Geary.
Together, they anchor the interior of K-State’s defensive line, making it difficult for any opponent to run.
“We always tell each (other) that no one can block us,” Geary said. “We don’t communicate too much on the field other than that. We just trust in each other.”
Britz, a senior from Harrisonville, picked up where he left off last season before exiting with an injury. He has 28 tackles, including nine for loss, and one pass breakup. Few defensive tackles in the Big 12 are in the backfield more often.
Geary, a sophomore and former walk-on from Topeka, ranks near the top of the conference at his position with 37 tackles, including 5 1/2 for loss. He added a fumble recovery last week against Texas Tech, a play that gave K-State’s offense excellent field position in the third quarter and led to a touchdown.
They have also become leaders. Brtiz and Geary were among the first to discourage teammates from accepting moral victories when K-State narrowly lost to Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor.
Together, they have helped K-State limit opponents to 156.6 rushing yards, which ranks second in the Big 12. The Wildcats ranked first before an off day at Texas Tech in which it had to defend 83 plays. With few breaks in the action, they surrendered 248 yards to Tech running back DeAndre Washington.
Teammates are confident they will bounce back Saturday against Iowa State running back Mike Warren, who has 1,070 rushing yards as a freshman.
“Travis and Will are two of the toughest defensive tackles I’ve gone against all year, and I have to go against them every day in practice,” freshman center Dalton Risner said. “I feel bad for any offensive lineman who has to go against them in a live game. They got off blocks so well and keep coming at you. They are relentless.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder assumed as much when he recruited them and noticed they were wrestlers.
That is always a bonus in his mind.
Snyder admired Iowa’s successful wrestling program when he served as the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator. He attended matches and learned from them. He viewed wrestling as an experience that can help anyone on the football field.
“I love the sport of wrestling for that particular reason,” Snyder said. “You have to have good leverage, and football can be a game of leverage at most positions. I also think there is an innate toughness that goes along with it that I appreciate.”
Britz, who is listed at 293 pounds, and Geary (297 pound) are proud of their shared wrestling memories. As near 300-pounders, they wrestled against other massive competition like they do in football. But there were no helmets, pads or holding penalties involved.
And unlike football, the matches were one-on-one. Two people trying to pin each other. They ended in personal glory or anguish. There was no in between.
“It teaches you how to fight,” Geary said. “Just one period after another, you got to keep coming back at it and give it your all every time. One little let-up, and that can be it in a wrestling match. It can be the same way in football. You can’t have a single letdown.”
Wrestling stories often come up between Britz and Geary. They never competed against each other, but it feels like they wrestled for the same high school.
They even have an old wrestling motto they have converted into a rallying cry on the football field.
It’s a bond few can match.
“Our choice of words are a little bit more vulgar than that, but we definitely go in there with the mindset that we aren’t going to lose or take no for an answer,” Britz said. “That comes from our wrestling background. It is the background you have to have when you are wrestling: me against the world. We both understand that mentality that we aren’t going to lose, and we can’t lose.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett