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56 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Damian Ilalio

In which BracketCat counts down the 56th day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State nose guard Damian Ilalio.

#56 Wyatt Hubert
The last K-State defensive lineman to wear this jersey number was current pro Wyatt Hubert (56). Now it belongs to young nose guard Damian Ilalio.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

#56 Damian Ilalio

Redshirt Sophomore | 6-1 | 296 lbs. | Manhattan, Kansas
Damian Ilalio
Damian Ilalio
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Nose Guard
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Second-String
  • Status: On Scholarship

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

After he had a good spring camp in 2022, he played in five games during the championship season, making solo tackles against South Dakota and Oklahoma State.

In his career highlight to date, Ilalio was in for the infamous stop on 4th and goal inside the 1-yard line in overtime during the Big 12 Championship game against TCU, which led to the game-winning field goal. He also finished as a second-team Academic All-Big 12 performer.

Ilalio, who is majoring in athletic training and rehab sciences, “blueshirted” and then redshirted in 2021. He prepped 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 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, where he played with current K-State offensive lineman Sam Shields and safety Joe Hall III.

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, now a player at Kansas Wesleyan) plays with (Ilalio) at Manhattan High,” said head 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.”

After two full seasons under his belt, what does Klieman have to say now about Ilalio?

The other guy that we knew was good but he’s just coming into his own as he comes into his body a little bit more is Damian Ilalio. Damian might be one of our best technicians on defense. He plays with tremendous pad level. He’s always down for the cause. He’ll have a role (in 2023), too. ... (He) is going to help us as well. When you throw Damian into a third- and fourth-and-goal situation and he’s able to walk people back in a Big 12 Championship game, that gave him a lot of confidence.

Here’s what our own Drew Schneider had to say about Ilalio in a 2021 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 ... 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.