D.J. Render made it clear that he thought his move from wide receiver to nickelback for Kansas State wasn’t a step backwards. He said he knows all about the stereotype of a defensive back: They play there because their hands weren’t good enough to catch the ball as a receiver.
“I for sure break the stereotype,” Render said. “I can catch and have very solid hand. That wasn’t the reason I switched.”
Regardless of reasoning, the swap could mean a greatly increased role for Render in the upcoming season. To this point, the junior has played in only 10 total games for the Wildcats: seven in 2018 and three games in 2017 against Central Arkansas, UCLA and Charlotte.
The concept of playing defensive back isn’t foreign to Render. But this will be his first time playing it at the college level, where the athletes are better and the attention to detail isn’t an option like it may have been at times in high school.
“The last time I played defensive back was my junior year in high school and we weren’t too much technical,” Render said. “I was playing off pure athleticism in high school because my coach, he liked to use his best players on both sides of the football. So my main position was receiver, but say for instance if you started at receiver, you would go second string with the defense.”
That was the only time Render played defense, he said, and a standout athlete he was. Render also played basketball and competed in the long jump at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga. As a pass-catcher his senior year, his hands weren’t a problem. Render accumulated 52 receptions for 520 yards and seven touchdowns, leading him to all-county honors and several offensive player of the week accolades.
In just a short time learning how to make the transition to defensive back, Render already has learned the importance of slowing things down and taking information in.
“I’ve had to learn to be really patient in man technique to be able to use my athleticism laterally to defend the slot receiver better and give myself a chance to win that rep,” Render said. “That was a lot. I’ve had to transition from running at somebody to backing up. That was probably the biggest transition for me, but I feel like each day I’m getting better and I’m taking pride in it because I’m a redshirt junior and have a short time. So I want to make as much impact on this team as possible.”
Having a new coaching staff at Kansas State also has been beneficial for Render during this transition. Film has been more important than ever for him, and the new coaching staff goes through walk-throughs to show the team what is right before they make the mistakes.
“I’m a hands-on type of guy,” Render said. “So if I can see something, it helps me understand a little bit better. From the short term that we have been around them I love this coaching staff. They bring positive energy each and every day. They are here to get you better. They are not here to just bring you down, so I really love this coaching staff.”