ARLINGTON, Texas — Perhaps the Arkansas Razorback fans just don’t like pep rallies.
Because if one thing was evident Thursday, it’s that Kansas State Wildcat fans love them.
More than 15,000 Wildcat fans piled into Rangers Ballpark to celebrate the K-State football season on the eve of tonight’s Cotton Bowl against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.
Thousands of purple-clad fans surrounded the stadium more than hour before the gates even opened, while less than a mile away about 2,000 reported Arkansas fans congregated in the Cowboys Stadium parking lot for their pep rally.
“To drive up on the bus, come around the corner on that bus and see three or four lanes of traffic, parking lots filled up, people tailgating, people wrapped all the way around the building, that really, really blew me away,” K-State athletic director John Currie said.
“Our staff told us it would be that way. And we believed them, but until you see it, it really is unbelievable.”
John Conway, his wife Kathy and their daughter Megan drove 13 hours from Loveland, Colo., to take in the pep rally and tonight’s game. John and his wife both graduated from K-State in the early 1980s.
Though the Conway family isn’t new to K-State bowl games — having to been to roughly half of them in the last 20 years — this one is especially meaningful because they’ve followed the Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein very closely going back to his high school football days in Loveland.
“I was elated when he signed with K-State,” said John, who is a nuclear physicist. “What you see is what you get with Collin. Everything you hear about Collin is all true. He’s a great young kid and we couldn’t be happier for him.”
Megan loves the matchup in the game and the purple that has taken over the Dallas-Metroplex.
“I think it’s the SEC/Big 12 matchup that everybody’s been waiting for,” she said. “The Cotton Bowl, Dallas loves us. They know what’s coming when we come to town.”
Led by the “Voice of the Wildcats,” Wyatt Thompson, K-State fans were introduced to the Wildcats’ team captains, school president Kirk Schulz, Currie and K-State head coach Bill Snyder.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran were also in attendance Thursday evening at the ballpark, just a few hundred yards away from where the eighth-ranked Wildcats will be playing No. 6 Arkansas tonight — kicking off at 7 on FOX.
“It was awesome,” Schulz said. “I’ve heard about the legendary K-State pep rallies with 20,000 people coming, and last year with the Pinstripe Bowl because of the travel stuff, John and I didn’t really get to experience that K-State scene.
“And tonight, you stand down there at the microphone and you have K-Staters up in the third deck, like 15 or 20,000 of them — it’ll be 25,000 a few years from now — I think it’s incredible support for our program and that makes us all feel real great.”
In addition to a highlight video from the season that included fireworks being launched from the top of Rangers Ballpark, K-State unveiled its new campaign to raise money for the renovation of the west side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Fans were also treated to a special appearance by former Wildcat and current Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, who emerged as a surprise guest from behind the team that was standing on the field just in front of the pitcher’s mound.
“They’re playing this game at Jerry’s World,” Newman said. “But tomorrow night, lets make it Wildcat World. When Arkansas shows up, let them know they’re in Wildcat territory.”