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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

KU welcomes observers

Duane Brooks, left, who played for Kansas coach David Beaty at MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, and arena league teammate and former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, right, take in some of Wednesday's Kansas football practice.

Duane Brooks, left, who played for Kansas coach David Beaty at MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, and arena league teammate and former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, right, take in some of Wednesday's Kansas football practice.

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In January of 2011, Darron Thomas was on the top of the college football world, starting at quarterback for Oregon in the national championship game.

Today, Thomas, 25, is spending his days closer to the college football basement — and loving it.

In town to observe Kansas University football practices with close friend and arena league teammate, Duane Brooks, Thomas, a self-described “football head” has enjoyed everything he has seen from the Kansas coaches and players. So much so that last Friday, during a motivational meeting, the former Oregon QB raised his hand and spoke up. The message was simple. And it went a long way.

“I’m just coming from a heart standpoint,” said the former LSU commitment and Houston native. “They haven’t won here in a long time. Back where I’m from, winning’s what we do. I’m just giving ’em belief that they can do it.”

Although most players on the KU roster still were waiting to become relevant for their high school teams at the time Thomas was throwing for 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns while leading Oregon to an undefeated regular season, many of them were very aware of who he was when they first met him late last week.

“There were some guys saying, ‘Oh, that’s him, he played for Oregon, I used to play with him on NCAA Football (video game),’” KU junior Fish Smithson said. “There were a lot of those conversations. And Duane, he played for (KU) coach (David) Beaty and that shows a lot. Ten-plus years later he comes back and still wants to be connected.”

Added Thomas, who said he spent most of his time emphasizing to the Jayhawks that they belong: “They were wowin’ when they saw me, because they were like, ‘Man, he was a top player.’ But I was like, ‘I’m one of y’all. I come from the same place and we do similar things.’ Now they’ve got the belief that we’re not superstars, we’re the same level and everybody can do the same thing.”

That belief is at the core of what Beaty has tried to establish during his first season in charge of Kansas football. That’s where the “Earn It” mantra comes from, and, according to Brooks, it’s something that Beaty has always preached.

“It doesn’t take long to understand the genuine love that guy has for athletes and just people in general,” said Brooks, who played quarterback for Beaty at McArthur High in Irving, Texas, from 2002-04. “That was somebody that I looked up to as a mentor who just embodied a lot of things I wanted to be. I got the chance to play for him and I’ve never met a coach that could hold his jock since then.”

Although NCAA rules have required Thomas and Brooks to observe from a distance during their time in Lawrence, both said just getting the chance to be around Beaty and such an upbeat program has been a joy. What’s more, the tips they’ve shared and the words of encouragement they’ve offered already appear to have made an impact.

“Coach Beaty said he’s seeing the response and he liked that,” Thomas said. “At Tuesday’s practice, he said, ‘You all want to run around for these guys, I’ve been trying to get you to run around like this all year.’ Sometimes they just need to hear it from the players and the ones that are actually doing it.”

Smithson, who said several KU players have asked for their visitors’ phone numbers so they can stay in touch, agreed: “I think it helps a lot coming from those two. Sometimes if you keep hearing it from a coach or one of your teammates, it can get brushed off. But if you hear it from guys who have done it, and done it successfully like those two, it hits.”

A random visit from a couple of strangers and future friends likely won’t do much to change any outcomes the rest of the season. The Jayhawks, who lost last week, 66-7 to Baylor, once again are heavy underdogs this Saturday against Texas Tech — 11 a.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium — and figure to be at least four-touchdown underdogs to most opponents the rest of the way.

But Thomas likes what he sees here, and a big reason he believes in KU’s future is because of Beaty’s message and the way the players seem to be responding.

“I never had a coach tell me he loved me,” Thomas said. “I did so much for a coach and I never heard him just say, ‘Thank you.’ And coach Beaty’s telling these dudes that before they’ve even done anything. I tell ’em, ‘He’s giving you all that, why aren’t you out there breaking your necks for him?’

“I think Kansas is gonna make a turn really soon. And it’s only gonna take one game. It’s just installing that confidence. Last week, before they played Baylor, I was like, ‘Y’all acting like you’re D-III and they’re D-I. You’re all the same, you all were recruited to play D-I football, you just gotta go out there and play like it.’”

Comments

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 1 month ago

Can we get Thomas in here as a GA or something to work with these kids?

Brett McCabe 5 years, 1 month ago

This is incredibly impressive stuff. Outstanding job by Beaty to have these guys here, and what a strong message they are sending to the players. The words from Thomas have got to have quite an effect on the Jayhawks.

Michael Maris 5 years, 1 month ago

So, is there anyone out there (now) who thinks that David Beaty was the incorrect hire for the Head Coaching job? The guy just does not throw people (players) under the bus. I listen every week (now) to the weekly press conference video's that are put up on Jayhawkslant. It may only be Matt Tait and Tom Keegan asking the majority of the questions, but Coach Beaty is prompt and polite with each and every question.

You want respect, you have to give respect. That seems to be the style that Coach Beaty is bringing to Jayhawk Nation.

Hard NOT to like the guy. Like I said previously, he took just a small amount of his time to shake my hand and speak to my family and friends (friends who are big K-State Fans) and I here in St. Charles (this past June).

I don't know if former Coach Weis would've even acknowledge my presence had I been wearing a Polo with Jayhawk logo on it (which I was not wearing that evening).

Matt, I liked this story a lot. It just goes to show the impact that Coach Beaty has made on Duane Brooks life and the fact that Brooks brought former Oregon Duck along with him to meet Coach Beaty, etc.......... Thanks for sharing this story.

Ian Ballinger 5 years, 1 month ago

Charlie Weis, and this is just from my own observations in games I watched and went to, always seemed cold and quiet. David Beaty is like the exact opposite. He talks so highly about the University of Kansas, but if you listen, he also talks very highly of the state of Kansas and its people, and I LOVE that. He's a Texas boy that came up here to be a Kansas boy. He's instilling a new culture in the football program, anyone that has been to even one game this year can see that he's the right guy for the job..... we just need to have patience and realize that we're basically starting from square one, thanks to our previous hires.

Beaty is the man and I'm glad, as a Jayhawk and a Kansan, to have him here.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 1 month ago

To answer your question, give it time. The 2015 list of nominations for job termination by the readers of KUSports.com includes Clint Bowen, Sheahon Zenger, Bernadette Gray-Little, Bill Self and Tom Keegan. Pretty sure Coach Beatty is on someone’s wait list.

Mark Lindrud 5 years, 1 month ago

I met Beaty at a meet and greet in Denver last spring. He was gracious, and we spoke awhile. He believes the success of this team will come from the hard work of the coaches and players not him.

Kyle Sybesma 5 years, 1 month ago

Chris Hughes was our latest recruit. Our 6th 3 star recruit and 11th overall for 2016 but JayhawkSlant on rivals removed a 3 star recruit. Who is it? What happened?

Matt Herrera 5 years, 1 month ago

LB Kurtis Taufa from Snow College, looks like he's heading to Utah instead.

Michael Maris 5 years, 1 month ago

Sad to hear that Kurtis Taufa has changed his mind on his commitment to the Jayhawks. But, Utah's doing really well right now. So, I guess he decided that he would stick close to where he's currently playing instead. Just more room for a High School kid to get that scholarship opportunity and maximize all of the available years to play Division 1 Football.

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