Threatening weather forecasts kept many away, so those who attended Fan Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium generally were folks who spend a lot of time thinking about the upcoming Kansas University football season filled with promise.
Reed Halverson, sophomore history major from Emporia, noticed Dezmon Briscoe returning kicks during Wednesday’s practice, and immediately his mind went to work.
“He’s a great receiver, and if he returns kicks the way he did against Missouri, he could win the Heisman,” Halverson said.
Which, of course, would give Kansas two Heisman Trophy candidates on the same team.
“Like Texas Tech last year with (Michael) Crabtree and (Graham) Harrell,” Halverson said.
It’s not too wild a thought. Briscoe did look phenomenal, contorting his body and showing Velcro hands to make one catch. Everything about the way the guy moves screams touchdown waiting to happen. He stood out more than anybody at the show put on for the fans.
Brad Thorson, the Wisconsin transfer, also had a loud game, blocking with an angry edge, blocking past the whistle and on one play standing up Maxwell Onyegbule in dominant fashion. Thorson was working with the first team at left guard. Something suggests Thorson’s aggressive nature will energize the entire offensive line, provided he can avoid penalty flags.
All you can go on is hunches in glimpses of practices. Sometimes those glimpses can be misleading. After all, Kerry Meier dropped a couple of passes. Maybe he spotted a spy in the stands and figured he’d send the eavesdropper home with bad information. Or maybe Meier’s two drops for the year are out of the way. Either way, the fans appreciate Meier, and the feeling is mutual.
“It’s changed quite a bit from the days I got here back in 2005,” Meier said during a recent interview. “The buzz around the community, not much excitement then. Each year after the Orange Bowl, a little bit more. Last year after the Insight Bowl, it’s a little bit more. Right now, here we are in 2009, and it’s the talk of the town. I know basketball’s going to have a heck of a year, but right now it’s the fall.”
Not all the interesting Fan Appreciation Day developments happened while the players ran plays on the field.
Popular down-to-earth coach Mark Mangino stole the show when he spoke to the crowd from the heart; that would be the heart stationed just south of his blue collar.
“A lot of people come here and they say, ‘Boy, Memorial Stadium is a pretty place,’” Mangino said, looking toward the hill, which under a gray sky looked cooler than ever. “We don’t want pretty. We want hostile. You make it hostile.”
Awesome stuff during an age when urging hostility of any sort is a major no-no.
Throughout the stands, young men in blue KU shirts handed out two-for-one coupons for the Northern Colorado game. Nobody can deny excitement is in the air for the 2009 KU football season, but evidently the enthusiasm doesn’t spill over to the first game. With Oklahoma and Nebraska both visiting Lawrence this season, Northern Colorado, even at two-for-one prices, is a tough sell. Kansas football is anything but.