Tanner Wood was a Kansas State football fan first.
Growing up, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound athlete from Conway Springs High School observed the Wildcats from the stands of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Now, Wood looks forward to coming back to Manhattan — this time as a student and player.
“It’s a great accomplishment for me because I’ve always wanted to play at a Division-I school and K-State is the right one for me and my family,” Wood said during a phone interview last week. “It feels like it’s been a long-time coming because I committed after my sophomore year and we’re excited for signing day.”
Wood could be the best prospect in Kansas this year. He played linebacker and quarterback at Conway Springs, but is listed as a defensive end on Rivals.com.
With great size and a a 4.65 40 time, Wood was bumped to 4-star status just two weeks ago. He’s one of two 4-stars in the Wildcats’ recruiting class, joining Lee’s Summit, Mo., linebacker Nick Ramirez.
“I know it’s just a rating, but it was kind of cool to see my name move up to a 4-star, because I’ve been a 3-star my whole life,” he said. “I don’t really notice the rating as much as other people do, but it’s cool to see how they react.
“I guess (Rivals) saw something on film that made them move me up.”
Wood will be one of the top recruits that sign with the Wildcats on Wednesday during National Signing Day.
Wood’s bump to 4-star status might something to do with a certain game back on Oct. 19.
In that contest, as the QB, Wood rushed 36 times for a state-record 659 yards and nine touchdowns in a victory.
It was the third-best single-game total in United States high school history, behind 754 yards in 1950 and 661 yards. The previous state record was 488 yards by Kip Canell of Claflin in 1998.
“Both offenses were very explosive,” Wood said. “On defense it was really irritating because their quarterback just kept taking the bulk of our defense out of it. We also had a lot of injuries in the secondary and they just kept taking advantage of our young guys.
“We had to score to win and that’s what we ended up doing by running it with me.”
Although a player of the caliber of Wood would be even more hyped if he came from a bigger, more metropolitan high school, he’s glad he comes from a smaller, more rural program like Conway Springs.
There, he played both sides of the ball. In a bigger school, it’s likely he’d been restricted to defense.
Wood believes that gives him an advantage over other recruits.
“I think it does,” he said. “You know what goes on on the offensive side. You know where they are wanting to open up the holes and how that looks. You know what lanes look like a lot better.”
Nonetheless, a guy with the talents of Wood was hard to keep a secret — even if he was hidden away in little Conway Springs.
Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Oregon and Indiana all had considerable interest in Wood.
The Cowboys and Vols were especially interested.
“They kept calling the high school all the time — those two,” he said about OSU and Tennessee. “They were a backup plan in case something was to really go wrong, but I’ve never really changed my mind at all.
“I’ve been 100 percent committed to K-State. I like that it’s in our state and close to home. And Oklahoma State is close too, but I’ve always liked Bill Snyder and the way he coaches, and his staff. It’s just a great place to be for me.”
Wood said that some schools tried to use Snyder’s age to negatively recruit against K-State — he will turn 74 next fall. But Snyder signed a new five-year, $14.75 million extension this past week.
“A few people tried to bring his age up,” Wood said. “But I’m pretty confident in my decision.”
With K-State losing many key defensive players to graduation this year, there could be a role for Wood soon.
He’s going to leave it up to the coaches to decide, though a redshirt is likely.
“I don’t really know when I’ll play,” he said. “I’m still healing from shoulder surgery, but it should be 100 percent rehabilitated by the time I come in. But, I’m going to leave it all up to them. I’m going to work as hard as I can and let them determine how much playing time I get by how hard I work.”
As a senior this past season for Conway Springs, Wood totaled 106 tackles, nine for a loss and one interception.
On offense, Wood rushed for 2,709 yards and 39 touchdowns — averaging more than 10 yards per carry.