SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At first glance, Kansas State Travis Tannahill’s season numbers may not jump off the page. But the senior tight end has played a key role in the success of the Wildcats offense this season.
With a ground attack led by senior quarterback Collin Klein and junior running back John Hubert, Tannahill is most often counted on to make some of the most crucial blocks to help spring his ball carriers loose. He’s done it time and time again this season, making him the first K-State tight end to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors.
“We don’t really throw the ball that much, so as a tight end who doesn’t get as many stats, it was very nice to be recognized for some of the blocking that I do, which I take a lot of pride in and so do our coaches,” Tannahill said Sunday.
K-State co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel is one of those coaches who loves having the 6-foot-3 and fundamentally-sound tight end on this team.
“Travis has played extremely well,” Dimel said. “He just does what he does. He’s extremely intelligent and really efficient. He’s an All-Big 12 player and I’m very proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.”
The Overland Park native has more catches this season (22) than he had in his first three seasons combined (19). And though he’s rarely the first option in the passing game, when his number is called, he makes the big catches when his team needs them the most.
“Looking back, for whatever reason, it seems like most of the receptions were for a first down or big third down,” Tannahill said. “Some of these tight ends in the country catch like eight passes a game or whatever, but that’s just not us.”
In K-State’s 24-19 win over Oklahoma, Tannahill made had receptions on the Wildcats’ final touchdown drive. He caught a pass from Klein to record his only touchdown this season against Kansas. And with a 29-yard catch, he set up a score in K-State’s 42-24 win over Texas to end the regular season.
“The Texas game was definitely the highlight of my career, one of the most fun games,” Tannahill said. “Also, beating KU four out of four times was pretty awesome. It’s pretty hard to beat someone four times in a row.”
Klein called the always-reliable Tannahill an eraser.
“He kind of erases and keeps mistakes from happening before they happen,” Klein said. “He’s someone that really can be relied on to help support and get everyone where they need to be. He just works hard and is committed and he cares, and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Tannahill hasn’t just been sure-handed on the field, but rather quite acrobatic at times, bringing in hard-to-catch passes with big leaps or dives to the ground. Then, once the big-bodied receiver gets the ball, watch out. He’ll likely run right over you, or at least try.
“In practice, he makes some of the craziest catches,” Harper said. “He could be on SportsCenter every week. He makes plays and he does everything he needs to do for blocking our spaces on the field.”
Offensive lineman B.J. Finney said that with his versatility at tight end, Tannahill brings a different dimension to the Wildcats offense.
“He can block and he can catch,” Finney said. “Obviously, he’s made some spectacular catches. He’s kind of the humor guy on the offense, so he keeps everybody in a positive mood. He’s just a great guy, an extremely hard worker.”
But as much as his team enjoys having Tannahill around, he has enjoyed being around them as well, especially considering Thursday night’s Fiesta Bowl against Oregon will his final game as a Wildcat.
“I’ve got, what, only three practices left?” Tannahill said. “That’s kind of weird after the dozens and dozens and hundreds of workouts I’ve done here to only have three left. But it’s exciting, and I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.
“This season football has been a lot more fun. It’s a lot of fun this year at games — you see guys laughing out there, you see guys smiling, making plays, having fun. That’s how football’s supposed to be played.”