March 28, 2007

Unique workout helped prep Cats for spring

The bus fired up outside the Vanier Football Complex at 5 a.m. one day in early January. Justin McKinney recalled seeing snow-covered grass, so he wore his cleats. Some of his bundled Kansas State teammates wore running shoes, not knowing quite what to expect. When the players filed onto a training field at nearby Fort Riley, they were introduced to a vastly different kind of workout.

"It was a great experience," K-State senior safety Marcus Watts said. "Something we'll remember when we're older."

In bitter cold, on bumpy terrain just before daybreak, one group of 18 to 23-year-olds in Nikes met a group of 18 to 23-year-olds in combat boots. Nothing too different, right? Some guys had similar hairstyles. Some had similar builds. One group was known as being "bold and daring." The other prided itself on being "proficient and combat ready." Each of the young men had families and dreams.

They were pretty much the same, except for one thing: One group lived for football. The other lived for freedom.

The groups mingled. They mixed into groups of 10.

And so initiated the vision shared by K-State coach Ron Prince and Lt. Col. Patrick Frank, battalion commander for the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, which is otherwise known as "The Black Lions." The meeting had been some 14 months in the making.

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