LAWRENCE – Three months after his worst day in football, Michael Glatczak would prefer to look forward. He will tell you about the supportive text messages from concerned teammates, or the conversations he had with his father, Larry, his high school coach back in Centralia. He will tell you it was hard. But he’d rather not think about the hit, the moment that changed the course of Kansas’ 2015 football season.
“I try not to,” Glatczak says.
It was April 25, the day of Kansas’ spring game, and Glatczak found himself blocked downfield on a broken play. A walk-on safety, Glatczak saw a ballcarrier coming his way. He didn’t know it was senior quarterback Michael Cummings. He didn’t know the play had broken down and that Cummings, wearing a red jersey, was scrambling into the secondary. He did know, of course, that the quarterback was off limits, but his view was blocked.
“Plays happen just like that,” Glatczak said. “You just try to make the play.”
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As the ball came his way, Glatczak dived at Cummings’ legs, cutting him at the knees. Cummings, the Jayhawks’ incumbent starter at quarterback, had his left knee buckle and his anterior cruciate ligament tear. He could miss his entire senior season, though KU will likely request a sixth year of eligibility.
As you might expect, Glatczak was gutted. He’d come to Kansas as a walk-on, earned his keep, and logged some time on special teams as a junior. But now he’d taken out Kansas’ starting quarterback before the season even began.
“It was a tough day,” Glatczak says. “I just kept thinking about it.”
In the ensuing hours, Glatczack stayed off social media and the Internet. He talked to his father, the long-time coach at Centralia High. He didn’t really feel at peace, he says, until he received a text message from Cummings, telling him to shake off the play.
Cummings held no grudges. Instead, he told Glatczak that he had a “hell of a spring,” that he needed to keep making plays, that Kansas would need him this fall.
“It helped me out a lot,” Glatczak says. “Just moving on and the next day — it made the days go by better.”
For the moment, Glatczak may be best known for his role in injuring Cummings during the spring. But that’s a shame, according to defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, because Glatczak could soon be known as the next walk-on to make an impact in the Kansas secondary.
“He’s a great kid,” Bowen said. “We all know where his heart is and what he’s trying to do to help the team. And he’s going to help this team. You talk about probably the biggest surprise of spring and (fall) camp. That’s the guy that can play that people will find out about.”
That’s not a surprise to those who knew Glatczak back in Centralia, where he grew up around the high school football program and set the school’s career rushing record (3,382 yards). It’s not a surprise to those at Butler Community College, where Glatczak spent two seasons playing wide receiver and helping the Grizzlies to a national runner-up finish in 2012.
Still, Glatczak wasn’t exactly a coveted Division I recruit. So when he arrived at Kansas in January 2014, he first had to survive walk-on tryouts. The process included grueling workouts in the hallways of the Anderson Family Football Complex, because the strength coach wouldn’t let the new walk-ons have access to the weight room.
“He said: You just gotta work yourself up into the weight room,” Glatczak recalls, smiling.
More than a year later, Glatczak has done just that. In a program with a depth problems, he is a success story, a home-grown walk-on who could help the Jayhawks on Saturdays. After earning his way into the weight room, Glatczak could now work his way onto the field.
“He’s more than a walk-on,” says starting safety Fish Smithson. “He’s good. If you watch him, you’ll realize. He’s got talent and he’s going to be out there with us this fall, making plays.”