Sometimes, it just takes a look.
My kids know that a single arched eyebrow means I think they’re full of crap. They know that two arched eyebrows mean they better straighten up before timeout or losing privileges ensues. And of course there are smiles, laughs, and other more-pleasant facial expressions.
On Saturday night, after a cruel loss to Iowa State in the snow, Will Howard did what he probably always does after games. He signed an autograph for a kid, slapped a few high fives, and walked off the field at Snyder Family Stadium. He probably didn’t know there was a camera on him. But there was, and it caught him in a candid moment before he headed off to the locker room.
Will Howard walks off the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for what could be the final time after a disappointing 42-35 loss to Iowa State pic.twitter.com/c4kWKxQNuT— Mason Voth (@TheRealMasonV) November 26, 2023
Most of us haven’t walked off the field like Will Howard has. But we know that look. I walked out of KSU Stadium on November 19th, 2005, after attending my final home game as an undergrad. At the top of the student section, I paused and turned back to look at the field. I knew I’d be back, but I knew I’d never experience a game there the same way I did as a student.
In short, in that one candid moment, Will Howard showed that he is one of us.
That’s not the case with every athlete, even the great ones, that come through your alma mater. And that’s fine. For some athletes, the college experience is a transactional one. For others, they never seem to connect with the town or the fans. For whatever reason.
But some do. Will Howard had better reason than most to view his time at Kansas State as a transactional relationship. God knows the criticism he suffered after his 2020 and 2021 seasons. Most K-State fans, me included, assumed that when Adrian Martinez transferred in from Nebraska that Howard would never play meaningful snaps wearing purple again.
Instead, he kept working and, when he got his shot after Martinez’s injury last season, made the most of it. It culminated in a Big 12 championship win over TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington last year. For that one, I personally owe him thanks because I got to take my oldest son to the game. It’s a day we’ll never forget.
Even for most of the athletes who truly love their college experience, we often don’t see it as fans. The cameras don’t always catch that last walk off the field, or a candid moment in the locker room. But this time, they did. And it showed us that Will Howard is one of us.