K-State’s Travis Britz is no longer overlooked

KSU-travis-britz

SEPTEMBER 2015 – Travis Britz grew up in the Kansas City area. He has certainly watched Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon throw out runners trying to stretch an extra base. For years, opponents would challenge Gordon’s arm, and Gordon would keep proving that it wasn’t a good challenge.

Gordon led the American League with 20 outfield assists in 2011, his first year in left field, when he won the first of four straight Gold Gloves. He had back-to-back seasons of 17 assists. Finally, teams stopped trying to gain that extra base. Gordon finished with just eight outfield assists last year, when he won the Platinum Glove for the best defender at any position in the American League.

Why is that relevant in college football? Because Britz is Kansas State’s version of Gordon.

Britz, who is a 6-4, 295-pound senior defensive tackle out of Harrisonville, specializes in blocking kicks. But it took a while for opposing teams to realize they had to make adjustments in their placekicking strategies.

Britz blocked a nation-leading four kicks as a sophomore in 2013, tying a school record for blocks in a season. Teams took notice in 2014 and he was limited to just one block, but it was a big one.

In the fourth quarter against the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, the Wildcats gave up a touchdown to pull within one. The only thing that separated the two teams was the almost-automatic PAT. But Britz recorded his fifth career block to tie Raphael Guidry for the most in a career at Kansas State. The Wildcats held on for a 31-30 victory, their second straight in Norman.

“If I had just said, ‘They got the touchdown,’ we might have lost that game,” he said. “I like blocking kicks (because) it disappoints the other team. It gets in their head. It sends a message to the whole team that we’re not going to quit in this game. You’re going to have to beat us with everything you’ve got on every play. We’re still going to come at you. If you fall seven times, get up eight.”

Britz knows it will be tough to get blocks this year because of opponents’ focus, but he’s not going to quit trying.

“I kind of noticed it last year,” he said. “They were kind of doing some things. But the more they scheme on me, the less they’re going to scheme on someone else. That just creates opportunities for someone else.

“I’m going to come at you as hard as I can. Maybe someone else on our team gets through. It creates more work for the other team, and I like that. It just disrupts the offense—and kicking team. The more flustered they get, the easier for our team.”

It’s that “whatever it takes” attitude that endears Britz to coach Bill Snyder.

“Travis is really making the effort to invest himself in the leadership role, having played successfully over an extended period of time,” Snyder said. “It’s not his ‘cup of tea,’ so to speak, to exude his guidance and leadership, but he’s making an effort to do that, and I appreciate that. He’s working hard at what he’s doing and giving some guidance to some of the young players.”

That guidance was gained from experience. Britz didn’t think he would see much playing time as a freshman in 2012.

“I wasn’t recruited very highly in high school,” he said. “That didn’t matter; I got a scholarship here. I didn’t think I’d be able to play (as a freshman) but that didn’t matter; I still played my freshman year.”

Britz didn’t doubt his abilities, but he knew true freshmen don’t see the field very often.

“You always have to be confident in your abilities as an athlete, but not many people get to play as true freshmen, especially defensive linemen,” he said. “It was surprising to me when I got the opportunity. When I look back on it, maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, but coach Mo (Latimore) helped me through all of it. He’s been there every step of the way.

“It’s amazing how Coach Mo is so dedicated to his athletes. He’s seen it all. He’s the main reason I’ve developed as a player. He’s been on me when he needs to be, and he’s been compassionate when I need compassion.”

Britz said Snyder called him a “crazy person” when he first arrived on campus, because Britz didn’t have much focus. With Latimore’s help, Britz has changed that perception completely.

“Development is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but each player has his own development,” Britz said. “I think my development is with rolling with the punches. People didn’t think I’d be a very good player, but I turned out to be all-conference player as a sophomore. My junior year I got hurt, but I still played. I think rolling with the punches is the key. I can’t put any limitations on myself.”

Britz agrees he’s not a vocal leader, at least at first. But he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to help his team.

“I’m very introverted until I’m very comfortable,” he says. “Then I turn into the super extrovert. In practice, I’m in that comfortable mode now. I talk to past players and they remind me that I was super quiet when I got here. That’s just who I am. I won’t speak out unless I’m comfortable and know what I’m doing.

“That’s the leadership aspect. I haven’t been the extroverted leader before because I haven’t been comfortable. The more I’m comfortable with it, the more I’ll speak out. I’ll speak my mind when I have to and I’ll encourage when I have to. That’s my own way of coping with learning something new.”

Britz will be a central figure, literally and figuratively, in the Wildcats defensive front.

“It’s just a matter of will,” he said. “It matters who is around you helping you. Just like anything else in football, you can’t do it on your own. I have had great guys around me. We’ve studied film with Coach Mo. We studied Ralph (Guidry), who’s been an expert at blocking kicks. I learned from him my sophomore year (Guidry’s senior year) and I built on that. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. The biggest thing is the people surrounding you. This year we have Will Geary and he’s one of the strongest players, pound for pound, in the Big 12, if not the NCAA. It’s the support you have around you.”

Article by David Smale

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