Had a chance to talk with Kansas State fullback and draft hopeful, Braden Wilson about his career in Manhattan, his position, and the draft process. Here is what he had to say:
Peter Smith: How did you end up at Kansas State?
Braden Wilson: Growing up in a small town in Western Kansas, you don’t get a whole lot of recognition out there and they were my division offer, so they made the decision pretty simple.
PS: What did it mean to go from 4 wins as a freshman to leaving with the Big XII Title?
BW: That meant everything to me. The nice thing was I grew up a Kansas State fan, so I got the pleasure of playing for the school I had always watched growing up and just turning the program back around again for the second time and being a part of that. Coach Snyder’s first four years back being the four years are the four years I started. It is tough to explain but it was an amazing feeling.
PS: Are you a little disappointed that you did not leave with a Bowl win?
BW: Yes, I do feel accomplished to an extent as far as how my college career went but we never ended the season on a win. I wish we could have, especially this last one, my Senior year, against Oregon, but it did not work out that way. It is what it is now and I would have liked it to end differently, but I can’t do anything about it now.
PS: You played in 51 games during your career in Manhattan. What does that mean to you now and going forward?
BW: Looking back on it, I can say I did everything I could. I never missed a game during my four years. That just gives me that gratifying feeling that I did my best. I did everything I could. I never sat out a game for a petty, little injury. Going forward, I hope coaches for NFL teams can look at that and say that I am durable. They know I can come in day in, day out and play a physical game and not have to worry about missing any games.
PS: Break down your game for me
BW: I had minimal production as far as carries or catches, but I did a lot of blocking. I’ve had some people joke with me about being a sixth olineman; just an athletic olineman. I did a lot of pass protection, a lot of run blocking out of the 2-back set. Iso’s and Powers; I did a lot of that over the years. I did a lot of being back in a one back set with Collin Klein and blocking for him and then the wildcat. I play a real physical game; a physical style of play. That is what the way I grew up playing. That is my thing. I did not have a high amount of production but I blocked for a lot of people who did.
PS: What do people tell you when they know you play fullback?
BW: It is a position I was kind of placed in and I like doing it. It was not a position I walked into college saying I’m gonna play fullback. It is how it turned out and I enjoy playing it. It is stunning to a lot of people when they hear I play fullback, because I am not your prototypical fullback. I’m a little different stature. I’m a lot taller than most fullbacks at 6’3½”. I don’t know if you see too many fullbacks at that height. It is not the most picked up position. Not everyone uses it. Not everyone needs one. Like I said, I was placed into it and I enjoy it. I am not upset about being a fullback. I am happy with what I do. I enjoy doing it.
PS: You mentioned your size. Has anyone mentioned the idea of playing another position in addition to being a fullback?
BW: It has been mentioned but there has not been a lot of emphasis on that. In college, I played one year of defensive end as well and most people viewing my stature that is what it was. I have played several positions throughout my career and if someone asked me to switch positions, I feel like I could adjust fairly quick, so I don’t think that would be an issue.
PS: More satisfying play: Getting the pancake block on the middle linebacker that sets up a touchdown for a teammate or getting into the end zone yourself?
BW: That’s a tough one. Those are both great feelings. I’ll go with one that realistically happened a lot more in college. I love the feeling of getting that pancake and finishing upon the defender. I love that feeling. And I had that one a lot more; I had two touchdowns in my career.
PS: How do you feel like practicing against what is in my opinion, the best pure linebacker in the draft in teammate, Arthur Brown. How do you feel like that helped prepare you for the NFL?
BW: I agree with what you just said about him being the best linebacker going into the draft. I’ve said this 100 times. I was a four year starter at fullback and I always told people this and it’s the truth. I’ve never come across somebody that is harder to block than Arthur. I think from the many times Arthur and I have gone at in practice, back and forth, that has made me significantly better as a player. And having gone against somebody like that is going to help me a lot with future endeavors.
PS: Who do you look up to in the NFL?
BW: I have given this a lot of thought. I wouldn’t say that there is anyone that I look up to individually or someone I compare myself to. I’ve always been the type of person that I’m gonna do me and play my best game. I feel like I have a unique style of play. I have always just tried to do my thing.
PS: How do guys like Vonta Leach and Lorenzo Neal play so long in the NFL and what can you learn from them? For how people want to devalue the position, when it comes to 3rd and short and getting that yard at the goal line, they need a guy like you.
BW: Those guys are incredible players. I love watching them. What I would take from them is for as long as their careers are, they take care of their bodies. I’m sure they’re big on nutrition. And with our position, you don’t get a whole lot of opportunities and when they do come up, they need you to come through so you just want to be ready for anything and everything, so you can capitalize on those situations as they arise.
PS: Where have you done your training this offseason? What was your focus?
BW: In January and February, I was out in California training with a guy named Scott Prohaska. That was for the combine; that was a lot of speed training. Right now, I am currently in Kansas City working out at Simoneau Sports Performance. Mark Simoneau was a 10 year NFL player, linebacker, who played at Kansas State. He is even from my hometown, Smith Center. That is where I am working out now and just trying to work on more for my position rather than testing.
PS: What do you take away from a coach like Bill Snyder as you move on from Kansas State?
BW: There are a lot of things I’d take away from him. I learned from him. I was fortunate to have come through his program. What I’ll tell is one of the main things that he really harped on was doing all the little things right. Having good habits through everything. When you get to the point where you take care of all the little things, including simple stuff like getting up and eating breakfast and not being too lazy to start the day. Take care of the little things and the big things become second nature to him. That is one of many things I’ve gotten from spending time under him.
PS: A lot of coaches do not get enough credit the work they do, so excluding Bill Snyder, tell me about a coach who helped in your development as a football player.
BW: There are two that I want to mention here. Obviously, my high school coaches were great instilling me with the physical style of my game and that has gotten me to where I am now. In college, two coaches that really made a difference for my teammates and myself were my position coach, Dana Dimel. He was our running backs coach as well the co-coordinator, the co-offensive coordinator. He had a lot to do with my learning of the game. I had never played fullback before and he kind of taught me how it was done and how to be successful at it. Our strength coach, Chris Dawson, he came in, I believe during my sophomore year. He came in and changed the culture of the team. He got everybody’s attitude and mentality right and he had a lot do with our success as a football team.
PS: Who did you grow up rooting for in the NFL?
BW: Yeah, I did. I was a Kansas City Chiefs fan growing up. A lot of people in Kansas are Chiefs fan. They are the local team for us. That is who I grew up rooting for.
PS: Have any teams stood out in terms of their interest in you?
BW: It is just too hard to say. They don’t let you know a whole lot during this process. I don’t know enough to really comment on that.
PS: Why a degree in social sciences?
BW: That was a product of indecision. I changed my major just about every year and I just decided that I wanted to get my degree. I wanted to make sure I had one before football was up. Worse comes to worse, if football does not work out, I can spend two semesters working on another one.
Really appreciate the time Braden took out of his schedule to talk to me and we wish him nothing but the best going forward as he takes on the NFL.