MANHATTAN — It wasn’t but four years ago that another Kansas State freshman wide receiver was singing the same tune as Denzel Goolsby.
Buried on the depth chart. Struggling to learn the offense. Ready to redshirt.
In the end, things turned out pretty well for Tyler Lockett. With a little patience – and a lot of coaching – things could also turn out well for Goolsby.
“I actually hope I redshirt at this point,” Goolsby said. “I don’t think it would be worth it, playing behind four guys, to burn an entire year and just to get on the field for maybe one or two plays every game. My cousin did that last year, and after talking to him I know how much he regretted it.”
Goolsby’s cousin, Florida tight end and Derby product DeAndre Goolsby, played sparingly as a freshman last season. And it did seem like a bit of a waste. But that isn’t really applicable here.
The Wildcats need lots of help – and depth – at receiver after losing a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Lockett, a third-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks, and Curry Sexton, along with their 16 combined touchdowns. That might have to come from Goolsby, a converted running back who led Bishop Carroll to the Class 5A title last season with 1,651 rushing yards, 251 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns.
Also a dynamic returner, Goolsby scored six touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns and was named the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.
Right now, that seems like a lifetime ago.
“You go from being a four-year starter on the varsity, to being a senior who hardly ever makes mistakes to coming here, where you don’t even know the plays,” Goolsby said. “You’re not used to playing at that speed and there’s so many different things, mentally, that have to come together. Where you could get by in the past on being stronger and faster, you can’t do that anymore.
“You have to be so much smarter, football-wise. There’s so much more that goes into this game, definitely so much learning still to do. I wasn’t expecting it to be this drastic, but I have to be patient.”
Patience, with a lot of guidance. The expectations for Goolsby, inside and outside of the program, are high.
“I think Denzel is doing well, but obviously, just like a lot of high school guys they’re surprised by just how much you have to learn,” K-State receivers coach Andre Coleman said. “It’s early for him, but he’s going to be a good player for us. We want to try to get him comfortable learning the offense before moving him around to different positions ... but we absolutely envision being able to utilize him in so many different ways.”
Goolsby, physically, generates that type of optimism because he already has the size (6-foot, 191 pounds) and speed (4.49 40-yard dash) of an elite Division I athlete. So like Lockett, who wanted to redshirt four years ago, he may be pressed into service.
“If they’re real with themselves, they’ll get humbled real quick,” Coleman said. “They will learn about how detailed everything needs to be. I’m asking question after question, teaching. This is the way you need to attack the defense. This is the split you need to have. If you really want to be good, you understand the mental aspect is important. Physically, (Goolsby) can already do it. I just want him to stay patient, stay motivated.”
No matter what, the start of football season has been a welcome respite for Goolsby. His father, Les, died in June of a brain aneurysm and the outpouring of support from K-State helped him through his grief.
“(The support) was huge, I got back to the funeral and the Kansas State basketball team and football team sent flowers, Coach (Bill) Snyder reached out, the captains reached out,” Goolsby said. “It kept me on my feet. I lost a family member in my father, but I’ve gained 105 new ones here. The family atmosphere is a real thing here.”