The star of Kansas State’s current Catbackers tour isn’t a student-athlete or a coach.
It’s a bus.
You can find it parked outside at all 23 Catbackers events this spring. It’s the big, purple bus that doubles as a mobile billboard for K-State athletics. You can’t miss it. On one side, you see the K-State football team preparing to take the field at Snyder Family Stadium. On the other, you see a member of every K-State sports team in full uniform. There’s Xavier Sneed dribbling a basketball, Dalton Risner sizing up a defensive end. There’s baseball and track and golf and rowing.
K-State fans line up for pictures with the bus everywhere it goes.
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“Everybody stands in front of it and says, ‘Wow.’ Then they pull out their phones and take photos in front of it,” said Matt Giller, a K-State development officer that organizes the Catbackers tour. “That is what it is all about.”
K-State radio play-by-play man Wyatt Thompson, who has logged more hours on the bus than he cares to admit, has snapped many of those photos.
“You should write a story about this bus,” Thompson said. “It’s awesome.”
“Our fans love it,” added former K-State forward D.J. Johnson, a regular on the Catbackers tour. “It was a great idea.”
K-State has actually used the bus to tour the Sunflower State before. It’s the sharp illustrations wrapped around the bus that are new.
Giller said K-State administrators came up with the idea for a unique bus design earlier this year. They brainstormed ways to make the Catbackers tour more exciting and quickly decided a new bus design (similar to ones used by Mississippi and Iowa State) could help. They also added inflatable games for children at every stop to go along with the traditional visits from Bill Snyder, Bruce Weber and various players. They also chose to condense the tour to a single month, making an improved bus even more important.
“It started off as just an idea,” Giller said. “Let’s throw K-State on the side of the bus and just drive down the highway. That’s what we were originally thinking. But, as you can see, it has kind of turned into a full show. We have a lot of great minds up in our branding and marketing department. This is the end result.”
Riding inside the bus as it cruises along I-70 has produced some memorable reactions from other motorists.
“It’s been great highway advertising for K-State athletics,” Giller said. “It is kind of funny driving down the street. You will get K-State fans honking at you and KU fans honking at you, as well. It has been great. I think everyone has enjoyed seeing it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett