Kansas State University athletic director John Currie had heard the rumors about the enormous pep rallies surrounding Kansas State’s football team at bowl games.
Thursday, at Rangers Ballpark, he learned firsthand that nobody can cross state lines to follow their team quite like Wildcat fans.
“To see the fans wrapped around the building, waiting to get in, was amazing,” Currie said. “You don’t really believe it until you see it it is just unbelievable.”
Just more than 15,000 K-State fans came out for a two-hour pep rally to support their team at the 51,000-seat stadium – where Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers play – in advance of today’s Cotton Bowl.
The No. 8-ranked Wildcats take on No. 6 Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium. The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Fox.
“Look at all the people that have come down here to support the team,” said Drew McCart, a Wamego native and senior at K-State.
“We’re talking about a team that was projected to maybe get six wins this year, and look at where they’re at now.”
Wildcat fans filled the area behind home plate inside the ballpark and were treated to a video of the team’s week in Dallas – the Cats arrived Saturday – before a string of K-State dignitaries spoke at the event, emceed by K-State radio announcer Wyatt Thompson.
“The Cotton Bowl is probably the third-best bowl, even including the BCS games,” said Tom Greer, a Shawnee native. “You see how nice everything they do is and then, to top it all off, you get to play inside one of the nicest stadiums in the world.”
Cowboys Stadium – built for $1.2 billion in 2009 – was the site of last year’s Super Bowl. The 80,000-seat stadium is sold out for tonight’s game.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran were seated in the front row during the pep rally and received loud cheers from the crowd, who also got to see the unveiling of plans for a $75 million renovation to the west side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.
After speeches by Currie and K-State president Kirk Schulz, the Wildcat players were brought onto the field and the team captains – including Wichitans Arthur Brown and Tysyn Hartman – spoke to the crowd.
“I want to keep this short and sweet,” said Brown, a Wichita East graduate and the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year. “I want to thank all of you here. I’m very appreciative of you.”
Coach Bill Snyder took the podium last – or so those in attendance thought – before a special guest: former K-State star and current Dallas Cowboy Terrence Newman. He brought an already amped-up crowd to another level.
“A lot of people tell me, after these type of things, ‘What an amazing crowd, did it exceed your expectations?’ ” Snyder said. “And I tell them, ‘No, I’ve expected this all along.’ ”