Interview with Philadelphia Eagle’s and former K-State running back Darren Sproles on April 26, 2014 (Photo by Scott D. Weaver Photography)
Last week, in the K-State Sports Extra, I had the opportunity to share my favorite 10 stories of 2014! It has been an exciting year working with K-State Athletics as I’ve conducted more interviews than I can count and met numerous awesome K-Staters along the way.
Here’s a look at the story posted to the K-State Sports’ blog:
The K-State Sports Extra Top 10 of 2014
December 26, 2014 | By Kelly McHugh
First off, a late Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Wildcat fans. I hope you have had an enjoyable holiday season!
Looking back at 2014, it’s been a good year for me with K-State Sports Extra.
Through this daily story, readers have been taken inside 100-plus K-State athletics events and read interviews from more than 150 current and former student-athletes, every head coach at K-State, K-State Athletics’ staff and passionate Wildcat fans from around the nation in 2014 alone.
This year, through the daily happenings of K-State Athletics, I had the opportunity to chat with former student-athletes now working and competing around the globe, and I met numerous wonderful K-State fans along the way who I have truly enjoyed getting to know.
Each and every day on the job is a new adventure and, as I hope you look forward to reading a different story each day, I look forward to sharing them with you.
Every story written has a unique backstory, and through today and tomorrow’s K-State Sports Extra I will be sharing a few of those stories with you.
Here are the first five of my top-10 favorite stories from 2014. Stay tuned tomorrow for the completed list!
10. Conversations with National Media
At the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Texas, earlier this summer I spent some time chatting with media from national sports news outlets. It was a neat opportunity to hear these writers and reporters’ thoughts on K-State football, as it is often a little bit of a different outlook than one would find in the Midwest. As a young writer, I always enjoy having the chance to talk with national media.
Because of the unique opportunity to talk with people such as CBS’s Dennis Dodd, FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt and ESPN’s Holly Rowe, I have the story I wrote from my conversations with them on this Top 10 list. You can click here to check out National Media Talks K-State Football published on Aug 10, 2014.
I also interviewed ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder during her visit to Manhattan for the K-State football vs. Auburn game, similar to the national media story. I thought that one was pretty interesting too.
9. Gene Keady’s K-State Roots
When I was asked if I wanted to interview Coach Keady while he was visiting Manhattan, I didn’t have to think twice before saying, “Yes.” Though he was in town for a sad reason (the funeral of his cousin who was “the closest thing he had to a brother” Keady said), he had the opportunity to check out a K-State men’s basketball practice and visit with old friends.
The reason Keady’s story has made it on to my Top 10 list is, not only because he is a legendary college basketball coach, but also his interview was a lot of fun. Since he was watching the practice, I wanted to keep the interview quick so he could get back out there, however, much to my surprise when I finished the interview, Keady laughed and said, “Surely there’s more we can talk about!” and we spent another 20 minutes chatting. I always enjoy spending time with people who are passionate about their K-State roots, and Keady was just that. Click here to read Kansas Roots Close to Keady’s Heart published on Dec. 17, 2014.
8. Partnerships with Ft. Riley
One morning earlier this summer, I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m., grabbed my recorder and a notebook and headed to meet up with K-State football for its trip to Fort Riley. Growing up with my father in the Army, I always enjoy having the opportunity to cover stories where my two worlds collide. Though an early morning, it made for one of my favorite stories of the year. It is exciting for me to have the opportunity to work with K-State, because both the athletics department and the university as a whole truly care about their military neighbors. To read Football Works Out with Fort Riley published on June 6, 2014, please click here.
7. Pickles and Watermelon
It’s not often that I have the opportunity to use silly titles, but I couldn’t resist this one. Not only did this story have a fun title, but it was also fun to write because I learned so many new things. I learned how many calories a football player should eat during a two-a-day-schedule (4-6,000!) and also learned how important it is for student-athletes to fuel their bodies correctly for training and competition.
K-State Athletics’ nutritionist Scott Trausch is both passionate and extremely knowledgeable in his field, and I enjoyed sitting down and chatting with him one evening earlier this year in the Ahearn Fund Student-Athlete Performance Table. To read Pickles and Watermelon, published on Aug. 16, 2014, please click here.
6. Bruce Weber Gives Back
As I continue on this adventure of writing K-State Sports Extra, there is one thing I have found to be true regardless of where you look: K-State people are generous. They care. They give back. Bruce Weber epitomizes this attitude. After a practice one afternoon last season I had the chance to chat with him a little about why he does what he does. His story was an inspirational one of hard work and remembering where you came from.
I was reminded of this story when, just last week, I covered K-State men’s basketball Holiday Clinic for Fort Riley’s 1-7 Field Artillery Brigade. Though Weber didn’t say anything about it in our interview, I found out later that week that he personally donated to the Army’s Operation Christmas Child program that night. Because of his continual generosity, this story remains one of my favorite from 2014. Click here to read Bruce Weber Gives Back published on Feb. 12, 2014.
5. A Chat with the Voice of the Wildcats
Wyatt Thompson had the day off the morning I set up my interview with him, but he met me in his office anyway. In his K-State sweatpants and sweatshirt, he said he didn’t mind coming in to talk K-State.
Because of his always friendly personality, Wyatt is one of my favorite people to work with. You can tell he loves his job, and you can tell the student-athletes and coaches he interviews on a daily basis love him as well.
Though I was writing about Wyatt winning the 2014 Kansas Sportscaster of the Year Award, our conversation began with him telling me about the story of his road to K-State. He told me how he began by calling high school games in Western Kansas and worked his way up. Twelve years later, and he’s earned the title “Voice of the Wildcats” and made numerous friends along the way. As always, our conversation was light and enjoyable as I learned what his typical day looked like and learned about his fondest memories on the job. It was, and probably always will be, one of my favorite interviews.
To read A Visit with the Voice of the Wildcats published on Feb. 24, 2014, please click here.
4. Dog Day at the Toint
Not only was this one of my favorite stories of 2014, it was one of my favorite stories to write. All-time. Ever. I wrote this K-State Sports Extra through the eyes of my 3-year-old black Labrador, Jack, after he spent his first afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium for its annual Bark in the Park Day. I adopted Jack two years ago around the same time I began writing K-State Sports Extra, so he’s been with me through it all. He’s a big-time K-State fan, and though he watches all the games from the couch, he and I were glad when he was finally allowed to come to a game.
To read dog Day at the Toint published on May 11, 2014, please click here.
3. Western Swing
From May 19-24, I spent the week traveling around Western Kansas. With numerous K-State employees, coaches and student-athletes, I traveled from city to city attending new Catbacker events every day.
On the trip rightfully dubbed “The Western Swing,” it was the first time I had ever spent time in the western part of Kansas, and I loved every minute of it. I loved the purple passion displayed uniquely at every event and I loved that these Western K-Staters opened their doors and welcomed us. I met many, many new friends along the way and am already working on my golf game for next year’s Western Swing.
From Dodge City to Scott City to Hays, America, the Western Swing was one of a kind. I wrote quite a few stories that week on the road, but here are the links to a few:
Scott City Catbackers Remember Doornbos
Kids Funzone Provides Fun for Wildcat Fans
Sports Extra Heads West
2. K-State’s Home Win Over KU
There’s nothing more exciting in sports than a bunch of excited fans rushing the court or field after a big win, and that’s exactly what happened on Feb. 10, 2014, when K-State defeated Kansas, 85-82, in overtime, in Bramlage Coliseum. Not only was it an exciting, exhilarating game to watch, but it made for a good story afterwards, too. Will Spradling – a Kansas kid – played the game of his life while freshman Marcus Foster continued his dominance and scored 20 points.
Who could forget the image of Thomas Gipson helping ESPN reporter Holly Rowe up onto the scores table where the team was standing so she could get her interview? That was priceless. Not only was the postgame environment awesome, but the game itself was among the most exciting K-State basketball games I had covered.
From start to finish, from hosting the pregame show on K-StateHD.TV that evening to covering the press conference afterwards where head coach Bruce Weber addressed the media smiling ear-to-ear, it was among the most exciting games I have ever covered. To read Home Court Magic, published on Feb. 11, 2014, please click here.
1. Kaiden Strong
While I had the opportunity last year to tell the story of K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller and his friend, 9-year-old Kaiden Schroeder, this summer I had the chance to update Wildcat fans on that story.
Kaiden, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2009, spent June and July at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where he underwent a new T Cell Treatment. He became one of only 30 children at the time to use the new method of leukemia treatment and, on July 3, was reported in complete remission – 100 percent cancer free.
During Kaiden’s time at CHOP, Ryan took a visit out there. The two ate Philly Cheese Steaks and ran up the Rocky stairs. Jenny Schroeder, Kaiden’s mom, sent me photos from Ryan’s visit, and the two just looked like they were having so much fun!
While no one is completely certain what the future holds and Kaiden will be heading back to CHOP for more treatment after the New Year, when I heard Kaiden was cancer free earlier this summer, my heart melted. I couldn’t have been happier to hear the news and share it in my story, A Special Bond. To read the story of Ryan and Kaiden’s friendship, published on Sept. 4, 2014, please click here.
To read updates on Kaiden and his family, you can visit his Caring Bridge page by clicking here.
2014 was an exciting year filled with some great moments to cover Wildcat sports! Thank you for joining me along the way!
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.