Landry Weber was born on a Friday evening nearly 19 years ago in Kansas City, but that is not how his birthday is remembered by his family. When relatives recall his first moments, they share a story not about what occurred in a hospital room, but a story about what transpired the following afternoon on a football field in Manhattan.
Kansas State and Texas met for the first time as members of the Big 12 Conference that day, and the Wildcats beat the Longhorns so convincingly that even Ricky Williams had a bad day. Texas’ running back went on to win the Heisman Trophy that year, but he managed just 43 yards on 25 carries during that 48-7 loss.
Landry wasn’t born on Sept. 18, 1998. No, he was born the day before K-State won a particularly memorable football game.
“K-State shut down Ricky Williams and shut him down handily,” said K-State radio analyst Stan Weber, Landry’s father. “Landry was not even 24 hours old. He didn’t make it to that game, unfortunately, but he knows all about it. He can tell you everything about that K-State football team.”
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It should come as no surprise, then, that Landry will soon be the sixth member of his immediate family to enroll at K-State, the fifth to play a sport for the Wildcats and the third to suit up for the football team.
Few, if any, families have a stronger passion for K-State athletics than the Webers.
Stan played quarterback under former coach Jim Dickey. His wife, Nancy, grew up in Manhattan and went on to run track and cheer for her hometown college. They met at a pep rally in 1982 and began dating immediately after.
Brittani Richardson, their oldest daughter, is a K-State graduate. So is her husband, Tyler. Stanton Weber, their oldest son, walked on to the football team and eventually became a captain. He now works under Bill Snyder as a graduate assistant. McKenzi Weber is a sophomore walk-on with the volleyball team. Now it’s time for Landry to leave high school and enter the fray as a walk-on receiver.
It all feels like destiny.
“My first memories are of watching K-State football,” Landry said. “I have been going to games since I was a month old. I have always known I wanted to wear that K-State purple.”
All walk-on team
The Webers may not be sports royalty like the Mannings. And they may not be immortalized in K-State highlights like the Locketts. But they do win state championships (12 at Bishop Miege), make good grades (academic scholarships help pay tuition) and they love the Wildcats. They arrive with unrivaled consistency, ready to work for playing time and degrees (the family already claims eight, including three masters).
Simply put: They give their all, particularly Stanton, McKenzi and Landry.
“The only weakness I see is their parents,” Stan said. “Nancy (who ran track at K-State for one year) and I didn’t quite get a good-enough gene pool together to produce scholarship athletes at the Division I level. But the kids fought through it and each worked very hard to maximize their individual abilities.”
Brittani arrived in Manhattan first and set the example. Then Stanton proved the term “walk-on” is nothing more than a label. After starting off with microscopic expectations, he became an invaluable contributor on special teams and a leader in the locker room. He earned a scholarship and was named captain as a senior.
Snyder remembers him having an incredible knack for being around the ball at important times.
Such was the case during a triple-overtime victory against Louisiana Tech in 2015. The Wildcats trailed at halftime and had to mount a comeback. A loss seemed likely when K-State returner Dominique Heath muffed the ball on a punt and Louisiana Tech players were in position to recover. But Stanton weaved through the pack to secure the fumble and K-State took advantage with a scoring drive.
“That was the most athletic play I ever saw him make,” Stan said. “I don’t know how he did it. He must have had glue on his fingers.”
McKenzi and Landry watched their older brother make several plays like that over the years. It gave them confidence they could do the same.
Following the path
There is no mandate within the Weber family to enroll at K-State or play sports. They have all chosen to do one or both, but there is no mandate.
As their four children grew, Stan and Nancy actually tried to push them in different directions.
Do you really want to follow our path? The answer was always yes.
That’s how strong the K-State pull is for the Webers. They have been season-ticket holders for decades. They may not have rushed Landry from the hospital to that Texas game in 1998, but he made it to games later that season.
His love for K-State runs so deep that he decided to join the Wildcats after other schools offered him athletic scholarships. Though he never received major recruiting attention while playing receiver and defensive back at Miege, he did earn a scholarship to Washburn, a place where he could have potentially starred.
“It wasn’t an easy choice,” Landry said. “Should I go to Washburn, where I have a better chance to play? Or should I go chase my dream at K-State? I had some thinking to do there. But, when it came down to it, I really wanted to shoot big. I have been dreaming about K-State my entire life. I wanted to take my shot.”
McKenzi tells a similar story.
She was the closest to going elsewhere. She never loved K-State football games and tried to get out of weekend trips to Manhattan when she became a teenager. As a Miege senior, she committed to Central Missouri and began purchasing Mules apparel. She was going to play volleyball there on a partial athletic scholarship and was thrilled.
But as time went on, she decided she would rather study Bakery Science, a major only offered at K-State. So she chose to enroll at K-State as a normal student. In a surprise twist, she informed family and friends of her decision at her graduation party.
The reaction? Cheers.
“I couldn’t see the big picture,” McKenzi said. “This is a big part of my family. K-State has such great people that will help me in the future. I was too immature to see that. I wanted to go to UCM, because I didn’t want to follow the path. But now that I am here, following my family, I can’t see myself anywhere else. I don’t know what I was thinking. Tradition is the foundation of my family.”
McKenzi notified K-State volleyball coaches of her late switch, and, after a brief stint with the school’s club team, was asked to join the Wildcats as a walk-on.
Her family now roots her on at home matches. But they would have supported her anywhere. Well, almost anywhere.
“I think it’s super that we all share this connection through Kansas State and have something in common,” Nancy said. “It would be really hard if someone in our family married a KU person. We would have to get new jokes for the dinner table.”
Then vs. Now
Who has it better?
That’s a question Stan asks whenever he compares his K-State career to his children’s.
An argument could be made he had the better experience as a starting quarterback. He was on scholarship and recognized on campus. He built up enough fan appeal to be named K-State’s radio analyst in 1986 and he has kept the job for 30-plus years. He also appears on TV and is a minor celebrity.
But he didn’t win many games. Stan’s teams went 18-36 while he was in college, and he was 6-15 as starting quarterback.
Stanton rarely played beyond special teams, McKenzi will have to work for playing time next season and Landry, though arguably the best athlete of the family, is not expected to make an immediate impact. But their teams all win – a lot.
Stanton played in major bowl games and won a Big 12 championship. McKenzi helped K-State volleyball earn a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Landry is joining a team that might open the season ranked.
The dynamics are so different they sometimes tease each other about them.
Stan likes to tell a story about his first action as a K-State quarterback. It was against Nebraska and the Wildcats were in a hole. He came in to provide a spark, but his first pass was intercepted for a touchdown. He felt like quitting, but he found a way to hang in there and ended up rushing for 113 yards, eventually pulling K-State to within striking distance. He was later named Big Eight player of the week.
“It’s a great story about never giving up … and almost winning,” McKenzi said. “We love dad and he gives us all great advice but sometimes we remind him, ‘Your teams were really bad.’ He just kind of stares back at us and says, ‘I know.’ ”
Stan’s biggest thrills have come from calling games in the radio booth, a job made infinitely more fulfilling when his sons joined the team.
“They got the better side of it,” Stan said. “Not to discount the honor it is to be the starting quarterback for K-State, but the program is at a different level now. All three would have been scholarship athletes had they played on my team. I don’t consider myself the most accomplished athlete in the family.”
Next Weber Up
Stan, who by day is chief financial officer of a Kansas City commerical real-estate company, and Nancy will cherish the next four years. As fun as it has been for them to support K-State as fans and employees, they have had the most fun supporting their alma mater as parents.
“Watching my kids play for K-State has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my life,” Nancy said. “Every game feels special.”
“It’s been a double whammy for me,” Stan said. “I never have to worry about missing my children’s games because of work.”
Stan isn’t sure what he will do with his time when Landry finishes college. He already feels like he has too much free time on his hands as it is with Landry preparing for summer school. Perhaps he will focus on his first granddaughter, Payton Richardson.
It might not be long before she is playing sports at K-State, too.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett