Nick Puetz will start at left guard for the Kansas State football team on Saturday. That’s why he made an appearance at the Wildcats’ weekly press conference on Tuesday, and that’s why his blocking abilities are suddenly a topic of interest.
But that’s not why he has an interesting story to tell.
Puetz, a junior from Salina, took a very unusual route to K-State. He broke his right fibula while screwing around in gym class as a high school senior, and received no Division I scholarship offers. So he went to Coffeyville junior college. After two impressive seasons, he transferred to Wyoming (as pictured above), where he was on track to start on the Cowboys’ offensive line right away. But after completing spring practices, he decided to transfer to K-State as a walk-on.
That meant he had to sit out the season, and wait another year for his dream of playing Division I football to become reality. That was difficult, but deep down he has always wanted to play for K-State. Saturday will be a big moment for him.
First off, how are you handling all this?
I’m doing great actually. Thanks for asking. I’m just ready for this week, ready to play. I’m excited and I’m doing well.
What is your mindset heading into your fast start?
Looking to make my first start. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to do what I can and do my best. I’ve been thinking about this day ever since I was probably about 8 years old growing up in Salina, Kansas, so I don’t really know what to expect. I’m a little nervous, but I think that’s probably normal.
Do you feel pressure to perform knowing how the offensive line struggled in the opener?
I haven’t even thought about it that way. This week in practice we just, we knew we made some mistakes, some little mistakes last week. We all thought they were easily correctable, and it’s all on us. So yeah, we just went back to work last week. I don’t think there is any more pressure on me or less pressure, we just all need to go out there and perform.
You and Colten Freeze have both been moved into the starting lineup, and B.J. Finney has moved to center. Has it been hard for the unit to adjust to all those changes?
All the guys on the offensive line are really tight, I would say. We’re all joking around with each other all the time and we all just want to win. We want to win and we don’t care who has to play where. We just want to get the job done and help the team win.
Did you see any playing time last week?
I did not. I sure didn’t.
What do you think you’ve done to create this opportunity for yourself?
Well, I’ve been in my playbook a lot, trying to know a lot about the offense, everything I can. It’s a pretty complex offense. So I’ve got to learn everything about it. I had a pretty good week of practice, I thought, and I think I worked hard last week and everything and I think … what was the exact question again?
You kind of answered it.
When did you start working with the first unit?
I mean, yeah. I can’t remember exactly when it happened. It just happened one day at practice. I can’t put an exact date on it.
Is the offense more motivated this week after what happened in the first game?
We’re kind of out there to prove something this week. We can play and we have some players. We can go out there and get the job done. It’s a team effort, but we don’t have to have the defense win us the game. We need to go out there and show that we’re a good offense.
You’re looking at another sellout crowd this week. What is playing in front of that many fans going to mean to you?
I’ve never been on the field and played. I’ve dreamed about it a lot growing up. I’ve been on the field a couple times. Last year I was ineligible, because I transferred so I was on the field every game. I got used to the environment. But I’ve never been out there on the field (playing). I’m assuming I’m maybe going to be taken back my first play. But after that I probably should be good and ready to play.
When you say you’ve dreamed about this moment, is that because you’ve always wanted to play at this level or you grew up a K-State fan?
I grew up a K-State fan. I’m from Salina, Kansas. It’s only like — well, it’s only 45 minutes away now because they changed the speed limit — it used to be an hour away. I grew up real close to Manhattan. It’s pretty split in Salina between KU and K-State but I was always a K-State fan growing up and I always wanted to play here.
What made you such a fan?
They got me really excited when I was younger. If I watched them I got really excited. I don’t know about you, but when I watch sports I like to watch them when I get excited so that’s why I picked K-State. If you’re from Kansas, coach Bill Sndyer is a legend to us Kansas people. I’ve always wanted to play for him, because he’s such a great coach.
Were you a projected starter at Wyoming?
I worked with the ones at Wyoming. Unfortunately I had to leave. I had some personal issues off the field. Honestly I always kind of had the dream to play for K-State, too. You only get to do this thing once, so I thought I’d pursue that dream.
I don’t want you to say anything you’re not comfortable about, but what exactly do you mean by personal issues?
Just some personal problems, my fiance at the time. I’m not with her anymore, so … And I was also a little home sick. I really wanted to play for K-State. I felt like that’s always what I wanted to do growing up and I just felt out of place (at Wyoming).
So now you’re single and living the dream?
How hard was it to walk away from a starting spot at Wyoming?
There was a point where I was like, ‘Man, I was a starter at Wyoming. I came here, now I’m not.’ I just kept telling myself if I worked hard it would work out in the end.
Was a starting spot the reason you chose Wyoming over K-State? Or was K-State not in the picture?
They were in the picture, they didn’t end up being able to have a scholarship for me. That’s why I ended up going to Wyoming. They had a scholarship for me.
Are you on scholarship now?
I am not.
If you play well enough, do you think you could earn a scholarship here?
You know, I haven’t even talked to anyone about it. I’m not worried about it too much. I’ve been so worried about starting and doing well this week.