With three days before South Dakota State’s season opener Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Jackrabbits defensive end Doug Peete hadn’t talked to his high school buddy Kevin Young, who plays the same position for Kansas.
But that phone call was coming.
“I’ve been real busy, but I figure I’ll give him a call — probably tonight — and talk to him about the game,” Peete said. “Maybe, I’ll see if he’ll give up some of their secrets or something.”
Peete and Young played together at Olathe North but will be reunited on the gridiron at 6 p.m. Saturday as opponents — friends still, but rivals as well.
“We are real close,” Peete said. “We hang out all the time when I go back home, but I’ll probably trash talk him a little bit, for sure. And I definitely will tell our offensive line guys to make sure they get after No. 90 if they get the chance.”
Peete — a 6-foot-3, 255-pound converted linebacker — isn’t the only South Dakota State player who will be returning to the Kansas City area for the matchup with Kansas.
The Jackrabbits’ roster also includes redshirt freshman placekicker Jay Carlson (6-1, 195) from Park Hill South, sophomore defensive lineman Auston LaBlance (6-3, 245) from University Academy, sophomore offensive lineman Andrew Mueller (6-4, 280) from Raymore-Peculiar, senior wide receiver Aaron Rollin (6-1, 210) from Lee’s Summit West and two brothers from Blue Springs South, sophomore wide receiver Dom Wright (6-1, 175) and junior defensive back Winston Wright (5-10, 190).
“Our guys love this type of game,” South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said. “It’s a way to measure yourself against a higher level and, at least on paper, better athletes. We have a mess of kids from the Kansas City area and Nebraska and Missouri, so it is a chance to prove something a little bit.”
That is especially true for Peete, who watched the Jayhawks pass on offering him a scholarship while landing two of his teammates and friends in Young and sophomore safety Victor Simmons.
“We use that a lot as motivation,” Peete said. “We aren’t shy about saying, ‘The big schools didn’t want you. Now, it’s time to show them what they missed out on.’ This game is probably the biggest game of my life. It’s like a Homecoming. Obviously, I know a lot of KU fans back home, so it would be nice to upset them and have those bragging rights.”
Opening the Charlie Weis era, the Jayhawks hope for a better result than the last time they faced a Division I-AA team (now the Football Championship Subdivision) from the Dakotas.
While Kansas fans undoubtedly want to forget that 6-3 loss in the 2010 season opener, Turner Gill’s first as coach, South Dakota State, which has been 5-6 the last two seasons, views it as proof of what’s possible.
“In a sense, it is really our bowl game,” Peete said. “Bowl games are the biggest game for those teams in a season, and it’s the same for us — a chance to prove who we are, which is pretty much is like a bowl game. Honestly, we feel like we have a good chance. We all believe and we’re all on the same page.”