QB gets early start at college football

By Cole Manbeck

Tavarius Bender started as Kansas State’s No. 2 quarterback in last Saturday’s Purple/White Spring Game. Seven days later, Bender was returning home to Lincoln, Neb., for his high school prom — because that’s what a typical senior in high school does.

But Bender, with the exception of this weekend, no longer lives the life of a high school senior.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder graduated from high school a semester early, arriving at K-State for the spring semester, as well as spring football.

Apparently Bender, who celebrated his 18th birthday on March 31, couldn’t wait to start his college career.

“One of the things I’ve always had a problem with is just being patient and letting things develop,” Bender said in regards to where he needs to improve the most on the football field.

While developing patience in the pocket will be critical for Bender’s college football career, that same eagerness to enroll in college early will prove beneficial in the long run. It already has.

Just a few months into his college career, Bender has put himself in a position to be the second-string quarterback behind Heisman hopeful Collin Klein, while also providing himself a chance to learn from the fifth-year senior.

“Coming out of high school, you’re that top athlete and you come here and you think it’s easy, but it really isn’t,” said Bender, who ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Nebraska in the 2012 recruiting class. “Collin is a great person to learn from. He’s done a very good job of putting me under his wing and saying, ‘hey, you need to look at this, look at that.’ He’s helped me. I couldn’t have done it without him this spring to learn everything that I’ve learned.”

A significant portion of those lessons have occurred inside the film room.

“Back home, we studied film here and there, but I didn’t know what studying film really meant until I got here,” he said. “Collin, being as good as he is, gets most of the snaps. You don’t get the reps you always want, so you take advantage of that film time. That’s when it all starts coming together.”

K-State fans got their first look at Bender in person last Saturday in the spring game when he completed 2-of-4 passes for 8 yards before leaving with what coach Bill Snyder said was a minor soft-tissue injury.

Daniel Sams, a redshirt freshman also vying for the backup job under center, completed his one and only pass for 13 yards and was sacked four times, while Sam Johnson, a walk-on sophomore completed three of his seven passes for 31 yards.

If Sams or Johnson can beat Bender out for the backup job in fall camp, then Bender very well could redshirt this upcoming season. But if Bender does manage to win the No. 2 job… well, that’s not too shabby for someone who attended his high school prom on Saturday.

“(Playing immediately) is everybody’s dream, but they’re going to put the best on the field, so I’ve got to prove myself,” Bender said. “I’ll let (the coaches) do their job and if they want to redshirt me, then we’ll talk about it.

“If they don’t redshirt me and next year comes around and I get a chance to play, then I get a chance to play. But I’ve still got to prove myself on the field and off the field as well.”

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