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K-State Today

November 1, 2013

Kansas State football nominated for Armed Forces Merit Award

Submitted by Kenny Lannou

The partnership of the Kansas State football team with the 1-28 Black Lions has created a bond between the university and the United States Army post at Fort Riley. This relationship has been nominated for the 2013 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.

Coordinated by the staff at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America was created in June 2012“to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football. The second recipient of the award will be announced Nov. 11 on Veterans Day.

Bronze Star Green Beret solider Nate Boyer, a member of the University of Texas football team, was the first recipient in November 2012 of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the association.

The partnership started in 2006 when Lt. Col.  Patrick Frank of the Black Lions approached former Wildcat coach Ron Prince about partnering his soldiers with the Kansas State student-athletes. The partnership has continued with under legendary Wildcat coach Bill Snyder.

In addition to hosting joint workouts, Snyder and his son, assistant head coach Sean Snyder, have attended deployment and return ceremonies for the Black Lions, and they post newsletters from the regiment in the locker room.

“Our guys — and I didn’t realize this at first — they carried names and faces of those guys around. When the Black Lions were over in Afghanistan, the players were looking at the newsletters, and they were concerned about the soldiers’ well-being,” Sean Snyder said.

While many college football teams have a military appreciation day with an appearance by the color guard and a section of soldiers in the stands, K-State takes the tribute game to a higher level. At this year’s Fort Riley Day game Nov. 2 against Iowa State, more than 1,000 soldiers and family members will be treated to a pregame tailgate party with free food and beer and donated tickets.

The school’s football team also has attended physical training and spent a day in the life of a soldier. The Wildcats have recorded numerous videos and written cards to be shared with the unit through their deployments. The Black Lions in return spend personal time with K-State coaching and support staffs.

The partnership between the Black Lions and the football team also has impacted other sports on the Manhattan campus. Each of the university’s sports have paired with a designated unit on campus to begin their own partnerships and support systems.

In an extensive Oct. 11 article in the Kansas City Star Magazine, titled "K-State athletes and Fort Riley soldiers join forces," Cindy Hoedel wrote that “the football partnership helped start a bigger relationship between the university and Fort Riley in 2008. What separates the K-State/Fort Riley partnership from military outreach programs at other universities is support from the top leaders of each institution.”

Hoedel’s article mentioned a visit to troops in Iraq in 2010 by Kansas State President Kirk Schulz and three faculty members. The group flew by Black Hawk helicopters and traveled by mine-resistant vehicles as they lived in troop housing for five days to see what the soldiers were experiencing.

“I don’t know how many university presidents have flown to Iraq,” said former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, a K-State alum and a four-star general in the Air Force. “That speaks volumes.”

The Star Magazine article noted that other universities and colleges near military bases, Louisville, Texas-San Antonio, Syracuse and San Diego State, have approached K-State to learn how its military partnership works. Interest is also on the military side.