Oakdale Park was filled with purple as Kansas State’s Catbacker Summer Tour made a stop in Salina on Tuesday.
Head football coach Chris Klieman, Athletic Director Gene Taylor, Willie the Wildcat and the “Voice of the Wildcats” Wyatt Thompson were among those in attendance alongside about 15 KSU student athletes and alumni representatives.
Wildcat fans sat around the the park’s main stage as Thompson hosted the event. Klieman, Taylor, KSU point guard Markquis Nowell and assistant basketball coach Ulric Maligi were a few of the speakers who addressed the crowd.
Klieman told KSAL News that having events like the one in Salina is a great way to bring the fanbase together, especially after not being able to do so in the past few years because of COVID-19.
“I know I came out in 2019 before I had even coached a game and did a number of the Catbacker events,” Klieman said. “To be able to come back out and see what you’ve missed for the last few years of not being able to bring all of these great K-State’ers together. . . it’s just fun to interact and connect with them.”
Tuesday was not Klieman’s first time in Salina this year, though. His son, Colby, enrolled early at Kansas Wesleyan University and will play football in the fall, and Klieman has gotten to participate in football in a different role.
“I got to come up and see the spring game,” Klieman said. “It was cool for me to just be a dad and watch the spring game.”
That wasn’t the only connection between the Kansas State contingent in attendance and the Salina area. Jace Friesen, a junior defensive end from Basehor, was one of the football student athletes taking pictures with fans and hanging out. He told KSAL News about his connections to a neighboring community.
“My dad grew up in Ellsworth,” Friesen said. “My grandma would take me up here to Salina when I was younger.”
Friesen said getting an idea of just how vast the support is for his team across the state is eye opening.
“The love for Kansas State is deep in my blood,” Friesen said” “It’s just something you have a lot of respect for. You know that that love goes out to everyone in the state and this community. To be able to come out and give back to people is great. You can see that spark in people’s eyes.”