Kansas State University

Kansas State’s Valentine doesn’t let desire for more diminish his enthusiasm

MANHATTAN — Some players feel blessed to score a touchdown. Others feel blessed just to be on the team.

In the middle is where you normally find college football's discontented.

During his time at Kansas State, senior running back Keithen Valentine has resided in each camp. He has been at the top, dropped to the bottom and climbed back to the middle.

His resolve has certainly been tested, and he's only been with the Wildcats for 16 games. But through it all, Valentine said he has never fallen into that group of unhappy players.

"Every time I get out there, I'm thankful and I feel blessed," he said. "One carry, no carry or 10 carries, I'm all right with it. Everything will work out."

Valentine has been like a jolt of electricity to K-State's offense at times this season. Even though he comes into games not knowing how much he'll be used, he keeps himself ready.

Through four games he has touched the ball 22 times, but he has turned those carries into 169 yards and a touchdown. His 34-yard run against Massachusetts is still the longest of any K-State player this season, and he is averaging 7.7 yards per rush, which currently ranks first on the team and 10th in the Big 12 Conference.

He has also been one of the Wildcats' top special teams players, delivering blocks on kickoff returns that return man Brandon Banks has credited for his improvement.

Coaches drool over that type of production from their starting running back, let alone their backup.

"That's the kind of guy he is," sophomore safety Tysyn Hartman said of Valentine. "He's a hard worker. On and of the field, he takes care of business. When it's his time to go in, he's been shining."

But Valentine is in a unique situation. No matter his numbers, he's not likely to receive a promotion on the depth chart.

Not when the guy in front of him is Daniel Thomas, the dual-threat athlete who touches the ball on most plays and has averaged 108 rushing yards while playing running back, quarterback and returning kicks.

Even while complimenting Valentine's play, K-State coaches have given no indication that they will increase his workload.

Valentine understands that. When he lost the Wildcats' starting job at the beginning of last season, he learned to accept a new role. That's why he's so appreciative today.

Not even a zero-carry game against Louisiana-Lafayette, in front of nearly 70 friends and family in his home state and a week after rushing for 89 yards in the season opener, got him down.

To him, every play is a gift. He says it's a pleasure to help Thomas in practice and speaks so well of his experiences that he almost seems content. But he says that is not the case.

"I don't want to give that impression," Valentine said. "I work hard to get on the field. Just with everything going right now I'm thankful, that's all I'm saying. But I'll never be satisfied. I work hard everyday to be No. 1 or get more carries."

Valentine got his wish during the second half of the Tennessee Tech game. With K-State up by four touchdowns, Thomas exited and Valentine was asked to carry the load. Ten rushes later, he had a 73-yard day and scored a touchdown.

Junior quarterback Carson Coffman wasn't surprised when Valentine stole the spotlight in the second half.

"He's one of the most positive players on our team," Coffman said. "He's always having a good time at practice, runs hard and works hard. Daniel is a great player, but I don't think we lose that much when we put Keithen in there."

Junior defensive back Emmanuel Lamur said he doesn't consider Valentine a backup, even if he's stuck behind Thomas.

"He's a guy who does everything right," Lamur said. "He helps us in a lot of areas, not just running the ball. He's a good person to learn from."