MANHATTAN — When he walks around campus, Wade Weibert tries to blend in with the rest of Kansas State's student body.
He never wears team-issued apparel to class — jeans and a plain T-shirt are more his style — and keeps the football talk to a minimum. From time to time, someone will spot his 6-foot-4, 303-pound frame and recognize he is the Wildcats' senior center, but he thinks most see nothing more than "a really big dude coming towards ’em."
Just the way he likes it.
"I love to fly under the radar," Weibert said. "I love keeping it low key and quiet."
Keeping a low profile is one of the main reasons Weibert became an offensive lineman. He says he’s reserved and shy. Put him a new environment and he'd rather keep to himself in a corner than walk around the room introducing himself.
That's the way he acted when he first arrived at K-State from Butler Community College in 2008. Even playing center at first seemed like unneeded pressure.
"There are a few more eyes on you because you're the one starting off the play," Weibert said. "It's a little nerve racking."
Those nerves disappeared this past offseason. That's when Weibert loosened up and became close friends with his fellow linemen and quarterback. That's when he realized he had one more shot at being the center. That's when he decided to change, and become more vocal in the locker room and forceful on the field.
"I feel like I've developed more of a mean streak," Weibert said. "That's one part of my game — you can ask anyone who has watched me play since I was in seventh grade — I've never really had. I just go out there and do my job. I was never really mean about
it. Now I feel like I've developed more of an attitude with my game."
The difference is noticeable. He may still be tough to recognize outside of his football uniform, but Weibert is now impossible to miss on the field. He has become a staple of K-State's offensive line and a candidate for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's top center.
And he has played a large role in the Wildcats' high-powered rushing attack, which is
averaging 260.3 yards.
After seeing the large holes Weibert and his teammates on the offensive line created during a 27-20 victory over Iowa State last week, quarterback Carson Coffman complimented them more than he did star running back Daniel Thomas.
"They pretty much dominated the whole game," Coffman said.
With four starters returning, most figured the offensive line would be one of the strongest units on K-State's roster. But Weibert has helped the front five improve despite Ethan Douglass and Clyde Aufner missing time with injuries.
"It's not easy blocking someone with a hand between your legs. He's gained more and more and more experience at that and become proficient in that respect," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "I think he's provided and offered quality leadership within not
just our offensive line but our offense in general."
Ask Weibert how he went through this transformation, and he shrugs. He likes the results he's getting on the field, but doesn't like being angry — even on the field.
He spends almost all of his free time with his teammates. At home, he watches TV with them. On the weekends, it’s camping or hunting with them. He enjoys their company too much to enjoy hitting them in practice.
"It's really uncomfortable," Weibert said. "I don't like it. The one good thing is it's really controlled. When practice is over, it's all over. That's the on thing I've really happy with my ability to do. When practice is over, when I walk off the field everything is cool."
His teammates respect him for that attitude.
"You're always going to get the best from Wade," said senior lineman Zach Kendall. "Everybody knows that."
Given his recent success, Weibert will have the chance to pursue a professional football career. But he doesn't seem interested.
He has already earned a degree in business management and is looking forward to the day he can open a restaurant that specializes in home-cooked burgers.
"I'm definitely ready to see what else there is to this life past football," Weibert said.
He has at least nine games remaining in his college career, though, and he will reluctantly keep his mean streak alive until his eligibility runs out.
Even if it means he becomes more noticeable on campus.