SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Deante Burton and Jarvis Leverett both wanted to play football for Kansas State this season, but now that their time on the scout team is almost over, they are glad they still have four years of eligibility remaining.
So are their coaches.
Burton, a freshman receiver from Manhattan, and Leverett, a freshman running back from the Houston area, both appear on their way to productive careers.
Burton won the team’s overachiever award, given annually to the top freshman in the weight room, and Leverett was named scout team player of the year.
“I really took my time on the scout team seriously,” Leverett said. “I know we have a whole lot of seniors on the team. It would have been selfish if I didn’t give 110 percent. That was my biggest thing: Give them a realistic look.”
With 32 days between the end of the regular season and the Fiesta Bowl, coaches have allowed them to spend practice away from the scout team and to take normal reps for the first time. They have been turning heads.
“I want to compete for a starting job next season,” Burton said Monday at a Fiesta Bowl news conference. “I want to help the team on special teams, too. Anything I can do will be great. But that starts now.”
At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Burton has the size necessary to catch passes once he sheds his redshirt. His time on the scout team proved he has the skills, too.
“He’s probably got as big an upside as anybody we have had in our program in quite some time,” said K-State receivers coach Michael Smith. “He has the size, he runs well, he is a tremendous athlete, he is a smart kid. He has a tremendous upside. Going into spring ball he is going to be in the mix. He has earned the right to compete for a job. He has done some really good things.”
Leverett (5-11, 200) is expected to be able to compete for the backup running back spot behind John Hubert.
His ability to take handoffs, make a cut and burst through holes made him a nine-time winner of the scout team’s player of the week award.
“He is a very talented young running back,” co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “We are definitely excited about his future.”
On the board – In an attempt to rebuild its reputation last March, the Fiesta Bowl added two outsiders with university ties to its board of directors. One was K-State athletic director John Currie.
“We were looking for a young, energetic, well-connected athletic director who could be neutral,” said Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Smith. “John was an obvious choice, and he has been fantastic. He attends, by phone, all the meetings and gives us an outside perspective. But at the same time he is scrupulous about avoiding conflicts of interest.”
One area Currie avoids: selecting teams for the Fiesta and Buffalo Wild Wings bowls. He excuses himself from those conversations, not wanting to lobby for or against teams.
“I participate on conference calls every week and board meetings once a month,” Currie said. “It’s been very interesting to me to listen to the committee and the volunteers and hear their opinions. I think I provide some campus perspective. But early on, before I accepted the position, I made very clear my first responsibility was to Kansas State. My second responsibility was to the Big 12. My third responsibility was to the Fiesta Bowl. I’m very careful.”
Still, he is glad those responsibilities overlap this week.
Lokombo’s journey — Oregon linebacker Boseko Lokombo’s passport will tell you he’s Canadian, but the 6-foot-3, 233-pound junior from Abbotsford, B.C., began his life on the other side of the globe.
Lokombo, who has 36 tackles and is in his first year as a full-time starter, was born in Kinslasa, Congo, where his parents fled as the Second Congo War began to erupt when Lokombo was 6. The war and its aftermath took 5.4 million lives, the deadliest conflict since World War II.
“Every now and then my parents will see something on the news and remind me about (the war),” said Lokombo, who has four brothers and two sisters. “Maybe, someday when it’s not so bad, I will go back. But it would have to be a lot safer.”
It just comes natural — Fiesta Bowl officials flipped the script on several Oregon players during Monday’s media session, giving them microphones and television cameras to interview each other.
Offensive lineman Kyle Long, son of NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports NFL analyst Howie Long, went directly to the main stage and started interviewing Oregon coach Chip Kelly, asking him an array of questions from what players he was most worried about when his head hit the pillow at night to which Ducks player he’d like to go on vacation with.
“You’re not bad at this,” Kelly said after the interview. “You trying to take your dad’s job?”
Long shook his head and laughed.
“No way,” he said. “I’d never want to do that.”