WACO, Texas — Injuries have forced Tre Walker to use crutches and to watch Kansas State’s past two football games from the sidelines, but they haven’t dampened his spirit.
As long as he has that, the junior linebacker is an important player for the Wildcats.
“Tre is a leader on this team,” senior linebacker Arthur Brown said. “His presence provides us with great confidence, just him being out there and being able to encourage some of the guys and lift us up with his vocal presence is a big contribution.”
So big that K-State football coach Bill Snyder is letting Walker use one of the team’s limited travel spots for road games. It was no shock to see Walker, wearing sweat pants and a jersey, lead the Wildcats onto the field before a home game against Oklahoma State two weeks ago, but it was surprising to see him leading the charge at TCU last week.
Injured players sometimes are kept off the sidelines at K-State’s home games. They are a much rarer sight on the road.
But there was Walker last week, with no hope of playing, as involved as ever in the pregrame buildup and meetings between plays. Snyder said earlier this week he planned on taking Walker on the road again this week for K-State’s game against Baylor on Saturday.
“Tre has been a very positive leader in our program and I think our players respond to him well,” Snyder said. “I wanted his leadership with us on the sideline.”
Walker is one of the most vocal players on K-State’s roster and gives a speech before every game. He also leads the team out of the locker room before every game and long ago was named a spirit captain.
He stepped up big as a freshman and was a key player during the Wildcats’ march to the Cotton Bowl last year, as well, before contributing in a lesser role this season. Before being helped off the field against Texas Tech, he had made 19 tackles, mostly in a backup role.
But his teammates still view him the way they always have.
“Tre is the voice of our defense,” safety Jarard Milo said. “He’s a guy who speaks up and motivates us. To see him out there after his injury, that’s something that keeps us motivated by talking to him on the sidelines.”
He used to motivate his teammates on the field with big tackles, like the one he made at the goal line to preserve a win over Miami last year. And he hopes to again. But for now, he is on the sidelines, offering both advice and inspiration to his healthy teammates.
That helps K-State, too.
“He’s a sprit captain for a reason,” receiver Chris Harper said. “He always has something inspirational to say. Last week was probably the best speech that he had. That’s kind of odd because he didn’t play but it still shows how much he means.”