A swarm of purple-clad fans filled Pumphouse on Wednesday afternoon to welcome newly-hired Kansas State football coach Chris Klieman in his first public appearance in Wichita.
Klieman addressed the fans for 10 minutes, drawing applause five times, then met individually with K-State fans for the next hour. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and connected with Wichitans in part of the “Cover 4” tour that saw him do the same in Garden City, Dallas and Overland Park.
In between those stops, Klieman was stopping by television studios and calling into radio stations for interviews. It was a 48-hour media blitz and near the end of it Wednesday morning, Klieman was loving every second of it.
“They want the best version of yourself and I’m going to be a people’s person,” Klieman said of his rigorous 48-hour schedule. “I want to get out and build relationships and get out and meet this great fan base. This is fun to me.
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“The passion that they have for Wildcat athletics and Wildcat football, it’s been so fun to see. These events are dynamite.”
The fun continued in Kansas City as Klieman and the K-State entourage hit sports talk stations KCSP (610 AM) and WHB (810 AM) plus an interview at KCTV (Ch. 5) before an evening with fans at Stagecoach Tavern in Overland Park.
“One of the reasons I was interested in this job was the fan enthusiasm and I’m seeing it up close,” Klieman said. “I want people to know who I am, and to know what I’m about. This is been great for meet the fans and embrace this enthusiasm.”
K-State athletic director Gene Taylor has been traveling with Klieman on the tour and said K-State fans have connected with Klieman’s energy and passion.
“It really has been tremendous to see,” Taylor said. “His connections have been immediate. They feed off his enthusiasm. They like his vision. They like how he understands what he’s walking into and the gravity of replacing a guy like Bill Snyder. So far it’s been a very, very positive tour.”
Klieman’s catch phrase — “Win the dang day” — has already caught on with Wildcat fans. When he mentioned in during his speech, fans started clapping and laughing. By the end, they erupted in applause when Klieman explained what it truly meant to “win the dang day.”
“I don’t care if it’s winter conditioning, it’s strength training, it’s normal conditioning, if it’s classwork or community service, you attack every day and give your best every day,” Klieman told the crowd. “If you do that and stack good day upon good day, things are going to be great for you in the fall. I have never been around a great football team that only does it August through December. You have to do it 365 days a year.”
Klieman told the crowd that he met with all 115 members of the football program in his first three days in Manhattan for around 15 minutes each.
“What it comes down to is building relationships and trust,” Klieman said. “I’m going to challenge the heck out of this football team because they’re ready to be challenged. But I’m also going to care for those kids and I’m going to love those kids. You can’t challenge them without caring and loving them and we’re going to be able to do that.”
Klieman wrapped up his speech by speaking on the importance of winning the recruiting battle for Kansas athletes. The coach made a strong impression in January stopping by high schools all over the state to make his presence felt.
He backed that up on Wednesday and encouraged the crowd to like and share K-State football things on social media to try to help spread the team’s brand.
“There’s so many kids growing up that want to become Wildcats,” Klieman said. “If there are kids out there across the state, wherever they are in the state, that want an opportunity to play at Kansas State, we want them to be able to do that. So we’ve got to get out to these high schools and attack it and try to get a bunch of kids to come check us out.”