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96 DAYS TO 2021 KICKOFF: Damian Ilalio

In which BracketCat counts down the 96th day until the 2021 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State defensive tackle Damian Ilalio.

#96 Joe Davies
No Kansas State defensive tackle has worn No. 96 since Joe Davies back under Bill Snyder. I am projecting that Damian Ilalio will step into it now.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

Damian Ilalio

True Freshman | 6-1 | 270 lbs. | Manhattan, Kansas
Damian Ilalio
Damian Ilalio
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Blueshirt
  • Status: On Scholarship

Damian Ilalio (b. Jan. 23, 2003) is a promising athletic young defensive tackle prospect out of Manhattan High School who’s sticking around to play for the hometown college team.

Ilalio, who plans on majoring in athletic training and likely will redshirt in 2021, played under head coach Joe Schartz at Manhattan, where he was regarded as the sixth-best prospect in the state of Kansas for the Class of 2021 by Rivals.

Named to the Kansas Football Coaches Association (KFBCA) Top 11 team as one of the top players in the state among all classes in 2020, in addition to the organization’s first-team all-state squad, Ilalio also was voted the 2020 Kansas Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-state honoree by The Wichita Eagle.

In addition, he was named the Sports in Kansas Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-state honoree, as well as a first-team all-state selection by The Topeka Capital-Journal as a senior.

(Plus he picked up first-team all-state honors as a junior from both the Capital-Journal and the Eagle, while he was an honorable mention pick by both organizations as a sophomore!)

Ilalio totaled 129 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and five fumble recoveries for the Indians over his junior and senior seasons. He also competed in wrestling — he was a two-time league wrestling champion — and track and field for Manhattan High.

A three-star player by most recruiting services, Ilalio picked K-State over offers from Air Force, Army, Emporia State and Illinois State, as well as interest from Kansas, North Dakota State and Northern Illinois. His primary recruiter was recruiting coordinator Taylor Braet.

“My son (Colby Klieman, a 2022 prospect at defensive back) plays with (Ilalio) at Manhattan High,” said K-State coach Chris Klieman. “I was able to watch an awful lot of those football games. I got to see a kid dominate the line of scrimmage, have an unbelievable motor.”

Coach Klieman called it “the benefit of being a dad and not a coach.”

“You can tell he loved the game,” he said. “You can tell that his teammates really enjoyed him. He was happy for teammates. That kid’s a winner, a flat-out winner. With his work ethic and motor and those things, I know he’ll be a great fit here and have tremendous success.”

In addition to Colby, Ilalio prepped with current K-State offensive lineman Sam Shields.

Here’s what our own Drew Schneider had to say about him in a recent recruiting wrap-up:

...the coaching staff added local star Damian Ilalio late, and I love what he brings to the table. He’s an undersized defensive tackle, but at 6’0, 270 he’s essentially a fire hydrant with arms and legs. Next time you pass a fire hydrant, give it a push, and see what happens. The coaching staff was able to work the recruiting system a little with Damian, and he’ll come into the class as a “blue shirt” because he was technically “unrecruited”. This means he didn’t take an official visit and didn’t have an in-home visit. Of course, living within 10 minutes (depending on which roads Manhattan has decided to destroy this week) makes that a little more tenable. He’ll be put on scholarship, sit a year, and be ready to roll with freshman eligibility. He’ll count against the class of 2022 in terms of scholarship numbers.