University of Missouri

After dispute over injury at K-State, Kaleb Prewett relishes second chance at Mizzou

Missouri safety Kaleb Prewett (left) and Logan Cheadle (right) chase Missouri State running back Calan Crowder during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won 72-43.
Missouri safety Kaleb Prewett (left) and Logan Cheadle (right) chase Missouri State running back Calan Crowder during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won 72-43. AP

To say Kansas State was Kaleb Prewett’s dream school is a bit like saying Bill Snyder is the greatest football coach in Wildcats history.

It’s not even close.

Prewett’s father, Rance, is a 1988 K-State graduate and passed down a deep, abiding love for all things royal purple. Despite offers from Missouri and Oklahoma State among others, Prewett never really considered any other options as a star safety at Blue Springs High after Snyder offered him a scholarship.

“It was kind of always a dream of ours for me to go to K-State and play there,” Prewett said.

When the dream turned sour — leading Prewett to transfer in May 2016 to Missouri, where he’s the Tigers’ junior starting strong-side linebacker this season — it was crushing for father and son.

“I loved K-State growing up, but things change when you experience it first-hand and it probably wasn’t the best fit for me,” Prewett said. “… When it didn’t work out, my dad wasn’t the happiest, but he’s happy that I’m here and have another opportunity.”

Trouble started for Prewett at K-State when he broke his wrist during a 2015 game at Texas Tech. In December, Prewett was cited for purchase/consumption of liquor of by a minor and did not travel to the Wildcats’ Liberty Bowl game.

At the time of the injury, Prewett was the Wildcats’ second-leading tackler. He said he felt uncomfortable with being rushed through the rehab process.

“It was kind of they were treating me like a piece of meat really,” Prewett said. “I wanted to take my time with my injury and we weren’t on the same page. I got frustrated and one thing led to another.”

Prewett had a doctor in Kansas City perform surgery on his wrist and he missed a few practices for follow-up visits, while mostly rehabbing on his own in Manhattan.

“It’s a little unusual, but I just trusted my doctor a little more,” Prewett said. “My problems at K-State definitely stemmed from my injury.”

Prewett and his father were adamant that it wasn’t an issue with Snyder, but “really everybody who works underneath him, the training staff and stuff,” he said.

A spokesman for Kansas State football did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment during the last month.

Despite those issues, Rance Prewett encouraged his son to stick with the Wildcats that spring. But damage had been done to the player/coaching staff relationship.

“He went back for the spring semester and I said, ‘OK, Kaleb, put your nose to the grindstone and do what you’re asked to do,’” Rance Prewett said. “But it’s almost like it just wasn’t fair to an extent and it kind of snowballed.”

By February, Kaleb Prewett announced his intent to transfer.

“I had to find some wormholes in the system,” he said of securing his release from K-State, “but I got it all figured out and got here and now I have a chance to play.”

He picked Mizzou after the season, a decision he doesn’t regret after finally seeing the field Saturday at Memorial Stadium during a 72-43 win against Missouri State to open the 2017 season.

Prewett totaled five tackles, including one for a loss, during his first game in nearly 22 months.

He primarily played free safety for the Wildcats, but switched to a hybrid linebacker/safety position and feels comfortable in the Tigers’ system — he said it’s similar to a 4-2-5 — despite undersized for an SEC linebacker.

“I almost like it more, because I get more action,” said Prewett, who bulked up to 215 pounds for the new position. “When I was playing free safety, I’m away from the play side, from the strength side. When I’m in my new spot, I’m in all the action and to the speed side, to the speed receivers. All the action is coming to me, so I have a bigger chance to make more plays and I love it.”

There was room for improvement after his Mizzou debut, but Prewett’s new coaching staff is excited for his future.

“He’s got a chance of being a really good playmaker,” second-year coach Barry Odom said. “He was inconsistent with some of the base reads and fits on where we needed him, but there’s some things he can do athletically and he’ll be a lot better week too than he was week one.”

Prewett’s family is also a little closer to Columbia. And Prewett’s stepsister, Kyler, is a sophomore at Missouri.

“Now, the dream come true would be for Mizzou to play K-State in a bowl game,” Rance Prewett said. “I think Kaleb would play with his hair on fire.”

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer