Greatest Wildcats Jersey Countdown: #43

#43 Darren Sproles (RB) 2001-2004 (Others considered: Bill Butler, DeShawn Fogle)


Why?: While Bill Butler and DeShawn Fogle are mentioned as possible considerations for this spot, in truth, #43 will forever belong to Darren Sproles. The diminutive running back from Olathe struggled to receive any scholarship offers out of high school. His arrival on campus in 2001, was truly an afterthought. Most believed Carlos Alsup would the future great running back from this class, but Darren set out to prove the doubters wrong. Stories from fall camp started to emerge about a scout team running back no starter could tackle. By the start of the season, Sproles was quickly climbing the depth chart at running back, Sproles saw his first action against New Mexico State in the second game of the year, totaling 49 yards and 1 touchdown on just 4 carries. A shoulder injury in that game sidelined him for the next three games, but he would return and play in the following five games before sitting out the Missouri and Insight Bowl games. Sproles’ best performance of his freshman season was against Louisiana Tech, netting 66 yards on just 5 carries. He finished the year with 210 yards, good for second all-time by a freshman behind Roosevelt Duncan. Following the graduation of Josh Scobey, Sproles became the starter in 2002 and never looked back. 2002 saw him set a new record for single-season yardage with 1,465. By the end of that year he was already 9th all-time in career yards, and 10th all-time in career rushing touchdowns. That year he earned second team All-Conference honors and received Honorable Mention All-America notice from the College Football News. By all measures, 2003 was a special year for the Cats, and Sproles was no exception. He flat-out dominated opposing defenses, netting 1,986 yards on the year, shattering his own single-season record for yardage. By then he was already the all-time rushing leader, being the only running back to record more than 3,000 yards rushing in a career. Sproles was spectacular in the Big XII title game. He recorded 235 yards rushing in the game, an effort overshadowed by Ell Roberson’s 4 passing touchdowns, one of which was a 60 yard screen pass to Sproles. Sproles finished that season with first team All-Conference and All-America honors, as well as being the runner-up for the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back, and finishing 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting. Sproles remains the only K-State running back to be a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. 2004 was a step back in every way for the Cats. Despite Sproles rushing for the third highest total in one season in school history, Wildcats failed to make a bowl game. Sproles ended his career with another first team All-Conference honor. Sproles was selected in the 4th round of the NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, before moving on to the Saints and Eagles where he finally got himself a Super Bowl ring. Sproles ended his NFL career this past season, having racked up the 5th highest career total all-purpose yards in NFL history, and of course a spot on the K-State Ring of Honor.

Career Numbers;

Rushes: 815

Yards: 4,979

YPC: 6.1

TDs: 45

Most Memorable Play: There are so many to choose from, but one definitely stands out. Facing Oklahoma in the 2003 Big XII title game, the Cats were on their heels from the start. Trailing by 7 at the start of the second quarter, Snyder called for a toss play to Sproles. Derrick Strait knifed into the backfield looking to level Sproles for a huge loss. Sproles demonstrated his impressive ability to shake off tackles by spinning out of Strait’s diving tackle, and racing 55 yards down the sideline before being knocked out of bounds. That play proved to be the spark the Wildcats needed; as they went on to win 35-7 with Sproles recording one of the touchdowns.

Current Player on the Roster Wearing #43: Jack Blumer– Sophomore P

Odds to Replace Sproles on This List: 0%. Nope, not happening. Blumer would have to win the starting spot this year, then go on to win the Ray Guy Award every year and be a three time consensus all-american before I would even entertain the idea that he could be listed here. This one likely belongs to Sproles for all-time.

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