Jonathan Truman did things the hard way.
From the day he stepped on campus, Truman’s earned everything he’s been given.
He started out as a special teams specialist, known for his workout habits. And now, going into his senior year, he’s a team captain that’s filling preseason All-Big 12 teams as one of the top linebackers in the league.
But his workout habits have earned him additional recognition too. This summer, Fox Sports compiled a list of the Top-20 freaks in college football. Truman checked in at No. 18.
“I’ve always enjoyed working out,” Truman said. “When I was younger and in high school, I always admired strong people and how it helps them develop. Working out in the offseason just helps us on the field so it’s something that I really take seriously. It’s definitely an honor to be called out in that way.
“It just shows how important we treat all of our offseason workouts and everything that we do on and off the field. To be honored in that, it’s cool, but really what’s important is what we do this fall.”
The fact that he’s one of college football’s freaks has resonated beyond teammates to Truman’s family and friends. Moving to another apartment during the summer, he said his friends brought it up when it came time to move furniture.
“My buddies all joke around ‘oh, you have to carry the couch because you’re the freak,’” he said. “I just kind of brush it off because any one of the guys on the team can be called out like that because we all work really hard.”
Truman was a former state wrestling champion from Kapaun Mt. Carmel, but said he came to K-State undersized in 2010. He redshirted that year and dedicated himself to excelling as a linebacker by building up the strength needed to take on guys that were nearly twice the size of him.
“I’ve had to use my strength instead of my body size to fend off the 300-pound lineman coming at me,” he said. “Using my body in a way that’s an advantage to me is something I really had to learn.”
Truman is 5-foot-11, 219 pounds with arms that look like cannons. He plans to be a firefighter after finishing his football career, and he looks ready to haul a fire hose and break down a door right now.
He got his first opportunity to be a starter last year, and he didn’t disappoint. He was second on the team in tackles with 89, with only fellow linebacker Blake Slaughter ahead of him.
With Slaughter gone, there are two spots open in the linebacker corps and a number of guys looking to get their chance.
Truman said he feels like it’s his time to step up as a leader among the linebackers and the entire defense.
“Being a returning starter and a team captain, I kind of feel a little more responsibility of being more of a vocal leader,” he said. “In the past I tended to be more of a lead-by-example guy, which is great because if you say something, you have to back it up. One thing I’ve really learned is to try to be more vocal and the things that you do say, mean more.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Hayes expects Truman to be a solid leader for the Wildcats this year, and he said he’s a guy they trust in that role.
“I really admire what he does,” Hayes said. “He’s a great worker, on and off the field, in the weight room, in the offseason work — he busts his tail. He’s played a lot of football for us and done well.”
Despite all the competition for the two spots around him, Truman said the linebacker group has developed a tight-knit bond. No matter who gets on the field, Truman said he thinks communication will be solid.
The Wildcats lost six starters on defense from last season, but Truman doesn’t expect there to be any issues with the six new starters.
“I think it just comes down to our preparation each week,” he said. “I’m not worried about any individuals on our defense. As long as we’re all going towards a common goal to win the game and not let the other team score, as long as we’re working together, I think we’ll do fine.”
Truman said the one thing he’s learned in his career is to not take anything for granted. Last season, he felt they didn’t prepare for North Dakota State like they should have. Right now, the only thing he’s focused on is Stephen F. Austin.