On Monday afternoon, everything seemed to be humming along at Kansas State’s team meeting at the Vanier Family Football Complex’s theater. The academic staff made its presentation. Head coach Chris Klieman went over points from the team’s Saturday loss to Oklahoma State.
“No one knew anything was up based off a team meeting being called,” K-State center Adam Holtorf said. “Everybody thought it was business as usual.”
Then, Hank Jacobs, the director of football administration, strode up and put on a video on the big screen at the front of the theater.
“Then,” Holtorf said, “everybody was like, ‘OK, something’s going on.’”
Turns out, something was going on.
The video showed a K-State football player decked in an alternate uniform, with a white helmet and white pants, showing off the new look among clouds of smoke while rapper Logic’s “Icy” blared in the background.
The video ended, and former K-State running back Mike McCoy walked in, dressed in the uniform, helmet, pads and all. The team erupted. McCoy pounded his chest. Another time for good measure.
All the hype will peak at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when K-State will host Baylor in its new alternate uniforms, a departure from the traditional purple-and-silver look the Wildcats have donned for decades.
Safe to say K-State coach Chris Klieman has delivered to a fan base that had spent years clamoring for them.
The announcement created such a stir among K-State coaches, players and fans because each faction had grown accustomed to the team’s standard uniforms: Purple-on-silver for home games, white-on-silver for away games. That’s been the Wildcats’ look since legendary head coach Bill Snyder took over in 1989, save for the three seasons under Ron Prince and the first when Snyder returned in 2009.
So when Klieman was hired in December 2018, fans began to pepper him with the same question: Can we expect alternate uniforms?
Klieman’s response: I’m open to it.
He kept his word.
“It was pretty cool,” Klieman said. “Something we’ve been talking about for an awful long time with the white helmet and white pants.”
Klieman had been planning this for awhile — “an awful long time,” in his own words — but he needed a plan. The team wanted to wear the alternates for a conference game. They had to unveil them on a Monday, because the new helmets take some getting used to, some breaking in, which the Wildcats couldn’t accomplish in practice if they started wearing them later in the week.
“The kids would freak out if they had to put a helmet on they hadn’t worn for the whole week,” Klieman said. “I didn’t want to put it out in the open week and have that out there for two weeks. So, this seemed like the right time.”
Not everyone on the team was surprised when the video played, though. Quarterback Skylar Thompson said he wasn’t because the coaches broke the news to the team’s seven captains at an earlier captains meeting.
“But it was pretty cool,” Thompson said. “The guys are excited for something different.”
There’s more to the uniforms than just the colors, though. At the front of the white helmets, where the gray uniforms read “K-State,” there’s a cursive “Cats” inscribed. When you look at the visors from the right angle, you can see the “Pound The Stone” logo the team has adopted this season.
Screen grab showing it.. pic.twitter.com/ICnDTYBrgm— Andy Thomas (@andy_thomas84) September 30, 2019
The Wildcats have a lot to like about their new uniforms, in other words. Thompson favorite part is the “Cats” script. Ditto for defensive end Wyatt Hubert. Cornerback A.J. Parker sides with the white helmet.
“We’ve always talked about new uniforms,” said Parker, a junior who joined the program in 2016. “‘Change something here, change something there. Just for one game or something.’ That’s something, as players, we always look forward to: A uniform change. Something different.”
K-State doesn’t have much history with alternate uniforms, either. On Fort Riley Day in 2013, the club changed things up and turned the purple stripes and Powercat on its helmets a purple digital camouflage. On Fort Riley Day in 2016, the Wildcats played in white helmets with more digital camouflage.
That’s it, though.
These new alternates are, well, new.
“I don’t know if you guys believe in the saying, ‘Look good, feel good, play good,’” Hubert said, “but there’s a lot of guys who believe in that saying. It’s definitely nice to have a little bit of swag on this team.”
That insight adds another dimension to the uniform change. Because they so seldom altered their uniforms, the Wildcats had developed a traditional, conventional program image. Snyder added to it by rarely playing freshmen and installing a run-first offense, at least later in his tenure, among other things.
All that is beginning to change under Klieman. It might come with some added benefits, too.
“As recruits,” K-State running back James Gilbert said, “they see, like, ‘Oh, they’re bringing out white helmets.’ That gets recruits wanting to come to K-State, stuff like that. It all plays a big part in the program.”