One of the best things about observing Manhattan over the long haul is watching the success of people who come through here. Most are the kids who grow up here, go to the local schools, and go on to do remarkable things.
That came to mind with a couple of recent news developments. First, Laird Veatch. As you probably read, he was named last week as the new athletics director at the University of Memphis. That’s a high-profile position and the high point for his career thus far.
He graduated from Manhattan High in 1990, part of a remarkable tradition of linebackers on the football team. Back to that in a minute. He went to K-State, where he developed into a starter on the first bowl-winning team in school history. He was a team captain as a senior and a two-time academic all-American.
It was that experience, he said, that prompted him to get into athletics administration. He said he considers Max Urick — the former K-State AD who still lives here — as his mentor. He started as an intern under DeLoss Dodds — another Manhattan connection — at the University of Texas. He then had stops at Missouri and Iowa State before coming back to K-State, the time he still says he’s most proud of, working under John Currie. He was the interim AD when Currie left for Tennessee, then took a job at Florida.
Well done, Mr. Veatch. We’ll expect to keep hearing good things out of you. Second, Brett Wallerstedt. He was a couple of years ahead of Mr. Veatch at Manhattan High, graduating with the vaunted class of 1988. He started at linebacker along with Mike Ringgenberg, who went on to star at Missouri.
Brett’s brother, Matt, had been another standout linebacker at MHS and went on to star at K-State, following in the footsteps of the likes of Gary Spani. (Who, of course, set records for tackles at K-State and with the Kansas City Chiefs.) Brett was recruited by K-State, which of course at that time was about as bad as it had ever been, but ended up at Arizona State because the assistant coach who had been recruiting him to K-State took a new job there.
That’s certainly too bad for K-State. Mr. Wallerstedt was just named to the Arizona State athletics hall of fame. His career — which ironically started with a tackle against K-State in Bill Snyder’s first game as the new coach — ended with a school-record 238 solo tackles.
He went on to play in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals, with brief stints with the Bengals and Rams. He still lives in the Phoenix area and now works for ASU in the athletics department. It’s fun to fantasize about what would have happened had Brett joined his brother and Mr. Veatch at K-State, but everything seems to have worked out pretty well for everybody.
Who’s the next big success story out of Manhattan? Who knows? There are probably several of them sitting in elementary school classrooms around town. We’ll look forward to telling those stories, too.