The last decade of football at Kansas State has been rather exciting for fans, players and coaches alike. Between a Big 12 Championship, a few major upsets and some bowl wins, there has been a lot to cheer about as a Wildcat fan.
Bill Snyder 2.0 led the Wildcats through the majority of this decade, and then Chris Klieman came in for the final year of the decade. Between the two coaches, K-State compiled an 81-47 record and reached nine bowl games, including this year’s Liberty Bowl appearance, which is just a few days away. There has been tons to cheer for as K-State fans. And that’s largely because of the players on the field.
We cracked open the history books, looked back at some of the best careers for players over the last ten years of K-State football and decided which players have left the biggest impact on the K-State football program.
With the decade ending in just a few days, here is a look back at the all-time starting defense over the last decade at K-State:
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DEFENSIVE END — JORDAN WILLIS
Former defensive end Jordan Willis
(Photo: Peter G. Aiken, Getty)
Jordan Willis goes down as one of the toughest forces to stop on a K-State defensive line in history. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Willis finished his career with 113 tackles, 39.5 for loss, and 25.5 sacks to push for the top of the list in school history. Willis was named a Second Team All-American, a First Team All-Big 12 player and the Big 12 Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the year.
DEFENSIVE END — RYAN MUELLER
(Photo: Scott Sewell)
Throughout his career in Manhattan, Ryan Mueller caused headaches for opposing offensive linemen. He had 116 tackles in his career (60 of which came in 2013 alone), 28.5 for loss and 16.5 sacks. Mueller was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2013 and 2014, a Second Team All-American in 2013, the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2013 and Honorable Mention Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big 12 in 2014.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE — TRAVIS BRITZ
Former defensive tackle Travis Britz
For three consecutive years, Travis Britz found a way to blow up plays from his defensive tackle spot. He steadily improved over his career, finishing with 111 tackles, 24.5 for loss and 10 sacks. As a sophomore and junior, Britz was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 pick, and then a Second Team All-Big 12 pick in 2015. He is now back in Manhattan as a graduate assistant on Chris Klieman’s staff.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE — WILL GEARY
Will Geary was a handful for opposing lines
(Photo: Steve Adelson, 247Sports)
Nobody expected a walk-on from Topeka to make as much of an impact as Will Geary did, but for four years, Geary proved people wrong. A four-year starter, Geary totaled 164 tackles, 25.5 for loss and 11 sacks. Throughout his career, he was First Team All-Big 12 three times, First Team All-American in 2017 and an Honorable Mention pick for Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017.
LINEBACKER — ARTHUR BROWN
Former linebacker Arthur Brown
(Photo: Kevin Hoffman)
Although he was only at K-State for two seasons, Arthur Brown might be in the mix for the best defensive player of the decade in Manhattan. Over just two seasons, Brown had 201 tackles, 16.5 for loss and three sacks. Brown was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-American and First Team All-Big 12 in 2012, as well as First Team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2011.
LINEBACKER — ELIJAH LEE
Elijah Lee was one of the better recruits in the 2014 class for K-State
(Photo: Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports)
Perhaps no defensive player bust onto the scene faster than Elijah Lee did. Taking the field as a true freshman in 2014, he went from 19 tackles, to 80, to 110 in his three-year career before going to the NFL. Lee finished with 209 tackles, 18.5 for loss and 11 sacks. He was Honorable Mention Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2014, First Team All-Big 12 and Honorable Mention Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
NICKELBACK — RANDALL EVANS
Former defensive back Randall Evans
(Photo: Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports)
As Randall Evans got older, nobody wanted to throw his way. He went from no interceptions as a freshman, to one as a sophomore, two as a junior and then four his senior year. Evans also recorded 210 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and two sacks. He was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2014 and then picked in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
CORNERBACK — NIGEL MALONE
Nigel Malone came to Kansas State from the junior college ranks and logged back-to-back significant numbers for interceptions.
After transferring in from junior college, Nigel Malone had a stellar career, even if it was just two years in Manhattan. He totaled 109 tackles and 12 interceptions, seven in 2011 and then five in 2012. Malone was a First Team All-Big 12 pick and Third Team All-American in 2011, and then was named Second Team All-Big 12 and was an Honorable Mention All-American in 2012.
CORNERBACK — D.J. REED
Former cornerback D.J. Reed
(Photo: Emily Starkey, 247Sports)
Another junior college transfer, D.J. Reed was nothing short of a lockdown defender in his career. He had seven interceptions over his two-year career, while also recording 125 tackles, five of which were for loss. Reed was First Team All-Big 12 and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year in 2016. As a junior in 2017, He was a First Team All-Big 12 and Second Team All-American pick, as a defensive back alone. That doesn’t count his multiple special teams awards.
SAFETY — DANTE BARNETT
Former safety Dante Barnett
After being forced onto the field at a young age because of injuries to other players, Dante Barnett blossomed into a special defensive back at K-State. He finished with eight interceptions, four of which came in 2013 alone. He also had 242 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and one sack. Barnett was the Defensive MVP of the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Second Team All-Big 12 in 2014 and Third Team All-Big 12 in 2016.
SAFETY — TY ZIMMERMAN
From the start of his career until the end of it, Ty Zimmerman was always a force to be reckoned with. He had 13 interceptions in his career, two of which were returned for scores. He recorded 257 tackles, 11 of which were for loss. Zimmerman was an All-Big 12 selection all four years, including twice as a First Team pick, Second Team All-American twice and an Honorable Mention Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year pick.