Sunflower Slate turns 5: THE PLAYERS

“When Boobie Miles returned to the football field, no one called out his name with those bellowing chants that had rocked the Watermelon Feed in a moment that seemed like a millennium before. There were no bursts of applause, no coach’s speech comparing him to the great Permian runners of the past, no take-your-sweet-time walk down the aisle of the crowded high school cafeteria. In the space of five weeks he had become an afterthought whose past performance earned no special privilege and seemed largely forgotten.” 

-H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, “Friday Night Lights”

I’m continuing with our three-part series today celebrating Sunflower Slate turning 5 years old. Yesterday I did the 5 most memorable games, today I’ll continue with the 5 most memorable players I’ve covered. This was, by far, the hardest list to narrow down of the three, and I went back over five years of blog posts and stories. Not all of these athletes were All-Americans, necessarily, but they each had stories that stuck with me for different reasons.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish things off with the coaches.

Here you go:

THE PLAYERS 

BOBBY WESLEY

Bobby Wesley, Garden City Community College/Newman, men’s basketball (2008-2013)

The toughest player I’ve ever covered. This guy went through everything you can think of in his college career and came out of it with a college degree, somehow or another. The absolute heartbeat of every team he ever played on. And a winner — brought Garden City Community College a Region VI title for the first time in over 50 years and helped lead the Jets to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time. I met Bobby when he was a junior at Garden City High, when he was teammates with future K-State wide receiver Brodrick Smith. Even then, you could see he had what it takes.

JACOB BRUSTER, LEFT

Jacob Bruster, Friends, football (2005-2008)

I’ll go ahead and call him the best offensive lineman in Friends history — and maybe in the history of the KCAC.  He and quarterback Alex Melugin were the undisputed leaders of the best Falcons team in school history — 2008 — and he won three straight KCAC titles capped with his senior season. Should’ve been the KCAC offensive player of the year as a senior, and it’s a sham that he wasn’t. But you and I both know offensive linemen don’t win those type of awards. Even when they should. The first time I met him, we had a group interview set up at the Friends football offices, he walks in with an industrial-sized bottle of IcyHot and took the interview over. Not even sure if I asked a question after that.

He and his then-fiance (now wife) lived by me in Old Town for awhile and I got to know him after his playing career was over. Some people just stick with you, and he’s one of them. A big personality. A genuine dude.

CLARENCE ANDERSON

Clarence Anderson, Ottawa, football (2008-2011)

How Anderson, a wide receiver and kick returner, ended up at Ottawa in the first place is fascinating. He played at Wichita Southeast, where they don’t throw the ball very much, and he was undersized. So he didn’t have many options coming out of high school, and really wanted to stay in Wichita and play at Friends … but Friends didn’t want him. Monty Lewis told him he was too small. Kent Kessinger thought differently. And Anderson never forgot the slight — he had his biggest games against Friends and ended up a three-time All-American. He’s had quite a bit of success playing football in Europe, but hasn’t been able to catch on in the NFL or in the CFL.

I’m used to athletes and coaches getting mad at me when I have to write negatively about them, but Anderson has gotten mad at me when I’ve written positive things about him, even, going so far as to block me on Twitter. I always assumed because I didn’t portray him exactly like he wanted. And that’s fine, but I did ask him why there was all the drama — because I saw it unfold with others, too. And he could never be straightforward with me about it. Always left me wondering who the guy really was, and if most of what he gave me in interviews was just a facade. I hope I write about this guy for years to come.

DEVIN LLOYD

Devin Lloyd, Hesston College, men’s basketball (2009-2011)

 The sky was the limit for Lloyd — literally. The combo guard was a dynamic scorer out of Hogan Prep in Kansas City who didn’t even know if he wanted to play college basketball, but after the murder of his best friend, Darreon Morgan, during his senior year of high school, Lloyd kept a promise he’d made to Morgan to play in a showcase in Wichita. That was where he was discovered by Hesston coach Dustin Galyon. The crazy thing? Lloyd wanted to be a pilot his entire life and had already enrolled in a program for inner-city kids to learn how to fly. Hesston had an aviation program. And Devin got his pilot’s license.

 

SYDNEY ANDREWS, LEFT

Sydney Andrews, Missouri Western, women’s soccer (2012-present)

The Wichita Northwest product is a two-time world champion for the U.S. Women’s Deaf National Soccer Team and now a sophomore defender at Missouri Western. She came up to The Eagle last summer for an interview and I was blown away by how focused and gracious she was, and the response I got to the article about her was overwhelming and came from all over the country. You meet some people that make you want to dig in, to work harder at what you do and never feel bad for yourself. That’s Sydney.

TA