When the nationally televised Cotton Bowl Classic football game between the Kansas State University Wildcats and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks gets underway Jan. 6 at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, K-State player Weston Hiebert expects to be standing on the sideline. However, the sophomore linebacker-turned-safety plans to enjoy every minute of the experience.
“It’s not fun standing on the sidelines when you really want to be playing, but the opportunity to be part of this is so cool,” Hiebert said.
A standout high school football player and 2010 Goessel High School graduate, Hiebert set his sights on being part of something big when he decided to “walk-on” at K-State his freshman year of college.
He was not offered a football scholarship by the university but he was invited to participate in summer camp and to try out for the team in the fall and winter.
“It was a little intimidating to go from being part of a high school with less than 100 students to trying to make a team with more than 120 on the roster,” he said. “But I always knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Hiebert, now number 33 on the team, opted to take a “grey-shirt” his first semester at K-State. This gave him an opportunity to get to know the system, players, and coaches. A grey-shirt option allows a potential player to work out in the facilities but not use up playing-time eligibility. Usually it also means the potential player must take fewer hours than needed to be considered a full-time student, but in Hiebert’s case, since he was not offered a scholarship, he could take a full class schedule.
He lifted weights through the winter, spring, and summer with the team, and then moved up to practice with the scout team this fall.
“My goal is to get playing time in a game at some point,” he said.
Initially, Hiebert went into the K-State football program as a linebacker, but moved to a defensive back position at strong safety.
“Coach Chris Cosh (defensive coordinator) and Coach Tom Hayes (secondary coach) talk with me a lot,” Hiebert said. “I knew I really didn’t have the size to be at linebacker and they helped me find a place.”
At 6’0” and 200 pounds, Hiebert said there are guys on the team a lot bigger than him. He also said there are some faster, as well.
“I like playing safety because I am farther away from the ball and can get a head start,” he said.
He said he did not enjoy the fact that he could not hit the other players as hard as he would like to in practice, because their goal was to prepare the offense, not injure them. But he did enjoy his scout team role because it gave him the opportunity to match up with the best offensive players on the K-State team.
“At team meetings Coach (Bill) Snyder often comments on how the scout team players show up every practice and play just as hard as the scholarship players,” Hiebert said. “I know he appreciates the hard work we do, running the opposing team’s defense.”
In September, Hiebert won the Scout Team Player of the Week Award and recognition from Snyder, and the whole K-State team.
“It was the week of the Miami game,” he said. “I didn’t expect that and was very surprised.”
Last month Hiebert made the travel-team and suited up for the game against University of Kansas in Lawrence. He also suits up for all home games in Manhattan.
“The most memorable game so far has been the one when we had four overtimes again Texas A&M,” he said. “When Collin (Klein) ran the ball into the end zone on the last overtime we just went crazy and stormed the field.”
Hiebert said the whole season has been a thrill, with so many close games, but the best may be yet to come.
“We started the year not even ranked and now we are at number eight,” he said. “Playing at Dallas should be awesome because we have the second largest fan base there.”
Hiebert, an agribusiness major, came home to rural Goessel for a short Christmas break with family on Friday, then left Tuesday to go back to practice with the team in Manhattan. He will fly to Dallas on Saturday for game preparation; spend several expense-paid days living the opportunity of a lifetime, then return to Kansas and interterm classes, Jan. 7.
“I think we will get to do some sightseeing there and have other activities planned too,” he said. “I am just very excited to be a part of this. I think it will be awesome.”
Hiebert’s parents, Myron and Ann Hiebert; his grandparents Arlen and Janora Ratzlaff; brother, Lucas, and girlfriend, Courtney Traxon, will also travel to Arlington for the Cotton Bowl, courtesy of six tickets Hiebert received as a scout team bonus.