Receiver Chris Harper and linebacker Arthur Brown share common roots in Wichita, but each took a different path to Kansas State’s senior night on Saturday.
The K-State senior receiver will always be intertwined with the story of his defensive teammate Brown. But it’ll never just be about two guys who transferred to Manhattan to play football.
Two players coming out of Wichita — Brown at East and Harper from Northwest — both had big college decisions to make in 2008. Both players had a handful of schools to pick from and neither ultimately chose the Wildcats.
Not that Harper, who chose Oregon, didn’t try to convince his friend to stay home. Brown chose Miami, and the two went to opposites sides of the country.
Harper, a high school quarterback who originally committed to K-State, but later signed with the Ducks, thrilled Oregon fans from the get-go as a freshman with his play behind center. But then moved on to wide receiver. By the end of the season, he’d decided he would come home.
K-State had just made a big decision of its own, firing coach Ron Prince during the 2008 season. The Wildcats turned the keys of the program back over to Bill Snyder, and Harper bought into the idea of turning the team around.
Brown, meanwhile, was about to enter his second season at Miami. After just four tackles in his freshman season, Brown would go on to make just 13 tackles in his sophomore season.
Considered one of the top recruits in the country out of high school, his career with the Hurricanes was turning into a disappointment. And then family came calling.
Brown, and his brother Bryce — then at Tennessee — both wanted to be closer to their parents, and transferred to K-State after the 2009 season.
Brown’s choice of K-State over Kansas, had little to do with the school itself. He admits even as a Kansas native, he didn’t know much about either place.
“I really didn’t know much about Kansas State before coming here,” Brown said. “I knew of Kansas State and KU, but I wasn’t really familiar or knew much in depth about the programs. For me it was really an opportunity to be near my family.”
Harper said he didn’t play a role in getting Arthur to come to K-State. But Brown said Harper played a role in making the process easier.
“Me and Chris are roommates, and him having gone through that transformation a year before I did, that definitely helped me out,” he said.
Now in their senior seasons, Harper is the Wildcats leading receiver and Brown the team’s leading tackler. And that’s where it becomes a story.
When they were children, playing on same team together, neither even touched the ball.
“I don’t know if people really know that story,” Harper said. “Arthur, we both played like center and guard in little league, we didn’t touch the ball at all. That’s kind of crazy from where we started to where we are now.”
The effect that Harper has had on Brown might transcend football. Harper joked that Brown has just started watching sports on TV within the last year. Brown’s brother Bryce made his first start with Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and he hardly watched. He said he simply had too much homework to finish.
And Brown is so focused on his team and this season that he doesn’t even know of players he might have crossed paths with.
“He’ll sit around and we’ll be talking about NFL players and he was talking about (Panthers’ linebacker Jonathan) Beason,” Harper said. “When he was at Miami Jon Beason would come down and workout and he knew who he was, and I said ‘did you ever see Andre Johnson,’ he was like ‘who?’ I said ‘Andre Johnson, the receiver from Miami,’ and he said ‘I don’t even know who that is.’”
Both players will stand on the field before Saturday’s game against Texas as part of the senior night festivities, No. 3 and No. 4, just a couple kids from Wichita who got out of Kansas, just to find their way home.
Harper said he will keep his own emotions at bay, as the team focuses on winning a Big 12 Championship.
“It’s not my last game, there’s nothing to get emotional about,” he said. “It’s a big game, and it’s a Big 12 game, the Big 12 championship on the line. I don’t have time for emotions, get all crying, because you’ve got to play the game.
“It’s not the last game, but it means a lot playing in front of the home crowd. I hope we can go out and play well.”
For Brown, it will be an emotional personal moment for him and his family.
“I was blessed to be a part of this team,” he said. “I know that there will be a lot invested into the preparation leading up to that game. I can’t anticipate what it will be like. I know there will be a lot of emotion felt.”