Tyler McInteer woke up on Monday morning to get ready for school and his mom handed him a piece of paper. Because ESPN’s BCS Countdown Show the night before was past the 8-year-old’s bedtime, his mother made sure she had the new rankings printed out and ready for when her son woke up.
It was the first time Tyler heard the news that his favorite football team — Kansas State — was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
All smiles, Tyler tucked the paper into his pocket, ready to show it off to his friends at school.
But Tyler is no usual Wildcat fan. He’s not the kid you’ll see on Saturday afternoons tailgating with his family at Bill Snyder Family Stadium or giggling with friends after making an appearance on the stadium’s big screen.
Tyler lives with his mother and K-State graduate Janet McInteer in West Orange, N.J.
Despite spending a week without power because the devastating storm Sandy, Tyler wanted to make sure he didn’t miss any K-State football games.
Even when that meant watching the Wildcats take on Oklahoma State at one of the few places that had power — West Orange’s local Kmart — Tyler didn’t let the storm stop him.
With the East Coast issuing gas rations, the McInteers had to limit trips from their home. And with no electricity, and the temperatures dropping with each passing day, their need for basic essentials grew.
Janet remembered Kmart had a ‘charging station’ where people without power could bring electronics to plug in. She decided that’s where they’d go to do their needed shopping.
“While we were there I said, ‘We should really go downstairs and see if they are running the game,’” Janet said. “Of course, they weren’t running the game because it’s all these Kmart ads on the TVs.
“But Tyler said something about the game and one of the people behind the counter went behind the TVs and flipped a switch to find ABC for him.”
Wearing their warmest purple K-State sweatshirts, Janet and Tyler spent the next few hours cheering on the Wildcats in Kmart while their phones charged and their cart was filled with soup and firewood.
“At one point, we were out in the woods behind our house picking up sticks to burn in our fireplace because the supplies were so low,” Janet explained about the aftermath Sandy left behind.
Sitting in the heated Kmart was the warmest she had felt in days.
“It was consistently 50 degrees in my house with a fire burning for seven days. So it was cold, it was dark.”
Janet grew up in Manhattan and went on to graduate from K-State. She worked in Manhattan and traveled as a surgical technologist before moving to New Jersey four years ago where she currently works as a Surgical Technology Instructor at Star Career Academy in Newark.
While moving from the rolling Flint Hills to the East Coast is a definite change in scenery, one thing remained the same for Janet and Tyler — and that was their passion for K-State.
“So, he gets it, naturally, because I kind of passed it on to him,” Janet said about her football-fanatic son and the reason behind love for the Purple and the White. “If you’re a K-State fan, you just don’t let it go.”
Tyler plays center and linebacker on his youth flag football team — the West Orange 49ers. His mother said it isn’t uncommon for him to wear his Powercat eye-black, instead of the team’s normal eye-black on his gamedays.
He sometimes leaves his K-State eye-black on long after the game is over.
“I’m sure people found that a little odd,” Janet laughed. “But he really likes to display his K-state pride.”
Recently, however, without even knowing it, Tyler displayed his K-State pride on a much bigger scale than to just those around him in New Jersey, who notice him sporting K-State eye-black on his cheeks.
Tyler’s story became a hit on the K-State Sports Facebook fan page where a photo of him watching K-State football in Kmart was posted on Nov. 4. In short time, the story received more than 4,000 Likes.
Janet’s sister, Wendy Schlesener, an administrative assistant at K-State, sent the photo to the K-State’s athletic department earlier that week, and they decided to share it on their page with a short message from Schlesener.
“I thought you guys would like to see what a TRUE Wildcat fan has to do in storm ravaged New Jersey to watch the game,” the post read. “This is my Nephew, Tyler, he has been without power since the storm hit. He went to a Kmart that had power and got them to change one of the TV’s to ABC then sat on a store shelf to watch his favorite team go 9-0!”
More than 250 shares and almost 150 comments on the photo later, and Tyler became a sensation, displayed as a “true Wildcat fan” — rightly earning the title.
“He is Mr. Football,” Janet said, “He sits at home and makes football books, draws football pictures and anything football he is just so into.”
Tyler knows his football, and said his favorite player on this season’s team is quarterback Collin Klein because, “he’s a good thrower and he’s a good runner.”
Besides the season opener against Missouri State, which wasn’t aired in their area, the McInteer’s said they have had the chance to catch every game on TV this year.
“I like that they like to win,” Tyler said, “and that we’re number one.”
They’ve watched many K-State football games with other Wildcat fans in New Jersey and New York during organized watch parties. Two years ago, Janet surprised her son with tickets to the Pinstripe Bowl.
“He’s always talking about it, and today he wore his K-State shirt and his K-State sweatshirt to school,” Janet said. “I’m sure at some point tonight he’ll get out his football book and paste the (BCS) standings in there.”
For the first time in his lifetime, Tyler’s football notebook will show his favorite team was the best team in the country this week.