Media Conference Quotes: Armed Forces Merit Award

Armed Forces Merit Award Presented by the Football Writers Association of America

Media Conference

November 9, 2017


TIM SIMMONS: To start the teleconference, we will have Brant Ringler, who is the executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, to announce the recipient of the 2017 Armed Force Bowl Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America. And with that, Brant, this is one of four awards that the Armed Forces Bowl gives out. Obviously, two were announced prior to the game and two after the game with the top players from the game this year, which will feature the Army West Point team. So, Brant, without further ado.


BRANT RINGLER: Well, thank you, Tim. And thank you, everybody, for being on today. This is, like you said, one of four different awards that we give, but it's probably the most special to me in the fact that we always have, in the past five years, an individual recipient that has served their country and then come back to serve the greater good of college football. This year, we are -- we had a very tough process of deciding from over 38 nominees and going through those and trying to find the best recipient for this year. And we've been watching Kansas State over the past several years as a nominee. And we decided for them to be the first university to receive this award. We could not be more pleased with this year's selection as Kansas State's football team and athletic department has continually gone above and beyond and building a long-term relationship with the Armed Forces members at Fort Riley. So, therefore, on behalf of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl I'm honored to announce Kansas State as the recipient of the 2017 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.


TIM SIMMONS: For all those that know, we have a seven-person selection committee made up of five people from the Football Writers Association and two members of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl staff. So with that, I would like to introduce David Jones, who is the President of the Football Writers.


DAVID JONES: Thank you, Tim. And thank you, Brant. As Brant said, this is kind of a unique award winner in that it's more about an association, a relationship among a lot of young men instead of just one honoree. And the relationship between the combat troops at Fort Riley and Kansas State, I think you can see it's been mutually beneficial since it was begun over a decade ago by K-State's coach, I think it was Ron Prince then, and Lieutenant Colonel Frank. And I think it's given the soldiers a welcome respite but also the players perspective on what real dedication and hardship is. And I was particularly struck when I read -- one of the K-State players said a while back that, "I thought there was no way our guys would get tired during a workout with them," and we've gone through all sorts of long workouts in the heat, but they kicked our butts. That rang true and rang home with me. My niece lives about 3,000 feet from Carter Stadium. I wish I could be there on the 23rd. This is the fourth year of the Lockheed Martin title sponsorship. It's becoming known as one of more exciting games in the early bowl season, with the high scoring, lots of great individual performances. Certainly Trent Taylor having last year 233 yards in receptions, 48-45 game with LA Tech and Navy. Had to be the highlight in the entire bowl season. Games like this is why people still love the bowls, no matter the emphasis on the College Football Playoffs. So the FWAA is happy, very proud to be involved in this award. I know my wife and I met the former Marine Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State last year. What an impressive, impressive young man. My wife remarked about him afterward. That was the sticking thing that she remembered, was Steven Rhodes, what an impressive kid he was in Tampa. So we're very happy to be a part of this, and thanks for letting us be a part of it.


TIM SIMMONS: One of the special things this year is we will have an on-campus presentation. And this year Fort Riley is being honored at the Kansas State football game this Saturday. I think it's a 2.30 p.m. kickoff Central Time. And they're playing the 23rd ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. We'll start out with Sean Snyder, the associate head football coach at Kansas State.


SEAN SNYDER: Thank you very much. I want to share how truly honored we are to receive the Armed Forces Merit Award. As you mentioned earlier, we started a joint partnership back in 2006  with General Pat Frank who was instrumental in the startup of the partnership. And there's a longstanding friendship that we've developed as well. You know, our initial partnership was with the 128th Black Lions, which inactivated a few years ago. We then joined with the 1-16 Iron Rangers. Over the years, we have had the honor to experience and share joint ventures such as PT training, which you just kind of mentioned a little bit ago, the experience for our players to be able to do some things that the soldiers are doing versus the things that we're doing. And it's definitely a different taxing on the body. We've been able to do some simulator, some live fires on the range, meals, soldiers have attended games, tours of the facility, family day here in the stadium with our players. And as I mentioned earlier, most importantly, we've been able to develop some great friendships over the years. You know, this relationship has given our players a true connection to the real-world problems Armed Forces protects us from, and we look forward to a longstanding relationship that continually strengthens the bond among our teams, community, and the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley. As our partnership continues to excel, which I think the strength of it just continues to grow and grow, we look forward to working with Lieutenant Colonel John Meredith with the Iron Rangers and Major General Joseph Martin, who is now the commanding general over at Fort Riley. And I especially want to thank you, Brant, and David for the extreme honor of this award.


TIM SIMMONS: Well, thank you, Coach. We also have with us today Gene Taylor.


GENE TAYLOR: It's great to be here and being the new kid on the block. It's just really exciting to receive this award, the Armed Force -- you know, the Armed Forces Merit Award. I'm learning a lot about our relationship with Fort Riley with not only our football program but a lot of our other programs. I certainly want to thank you guys, the Football Writers Association of America and Lockheed Martin,

for recognizing this really unique and special relationship that we have with the soldiers of Fort Riley. I've obviously spent a little time, you know, at Naval Academy for 15 years and watched – obviously the Army-Navy game has been very special to me and just the relationship in the military. And it's had an impact on my life both professionally and personally. So it's really a special relationship that we have. I appreciate our coaches and our football team that recognize that and respect one another for what, you know, what you learn from the rigors of being in the military.

It's a lifestyle that a lot of people don't understand, and for our young men in football and the other programs to really understand what that takes and the commitment it takes. I think it helps them become a better football player and better athlete. So this is really a great honor. We're very, very pleased and honored and actually humbled to receive it. And it just goes, once again, to the wonderful folks here at K-State and the football program in particular and the recognition of our relationship with Fort Riley.


TIM SIMMONS: Kenny, can you kind of explain what's going to go on Saturday with the presentation and then introduce the gentleman from Fort Riley.


KENNY LANNOU: Sure thing. And as Tim mentioned before, this Saturday is Fort Riley Day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, which, again, is one of those examples of how that partnership has grown, and there will be several thousand family and friends and servicemen and women in the stadium for the game. So it's perfect timing to present and accept this award. So we will do that in the first quarter of the game and there are plenty of pregame, end game and even post-game activities that all of Fort Riley will be a part of. So we're real excited about that. And, again, I think Major Jared Nichols is on the call. And I would like to turn it over to him and have

him make a short comment about the partnership from their perspective.


TIM SIMMONS: Major Nichols?


MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: Yeah, this is Major Nichols. First of all, hey, thank you so much for recognizing K-State's unique partnership here at Fort Riley. We can't think of a more deserving recipient amongst the college football population out there. It

really is a special partnership we have here in the Flint Hills and one that is definitely unique compared to all the other units out there in the Army. And I know we take a lot of pride watching the team develop through the past couple years and really it's just great to be connected to the community in this way. And even though I'm a West Virginia Mountaineer, I can say I'm a little partial to K-State after being here the past couple years.


TIM SIMMONS: Well, good enough. Just before we get started, I want to thank Kenny Lannou for his work over the past four years in supplying nomination materials. Also on our committee is Blair Kerkhoff of "Kansas City Star." And Blair will be at the game on Saturday to help present the award with Brant Ringler. And Blair obviously a lifetime member of the Football Writers. So with that said, we'd like to open it up to any questions that we might have from anybody on the call. One question that I have, with Kansas State being bowl-eligible and all that stuff, and Army being

headed for the Lockheed Martin, if everything works out, how special would it be for Kansas State to play Army in a bowl game or even playing them in a regular season game?


SEAN SNYDER: Well, I'll tell you, it would be an extreme honor. Obviously over the years and as we've gone through scheduling, there's been dialogue over that, especially since we've joined the partnership at Fort Riley. And, you know, I think at the end of the day, it would -- it would put a good story together and be a pretty great day.


TIM SIMMONS: Okay. What about from Jared Nichols, Major Nichols. What would that be if Army ever played at the Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan?


MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: I think it would be a phenomenal opportunity both for Army fans and K-State fans to see that sort of fan experience. I think -- you know, I used to work at the Military Academy. And that's truly an amazing venue for college football, and the game-day experience out there is something really special for people to kind of see. And I do think that K-State definitely does it right, and they keep a really good family-friendly environment that everybody can enjoy. And, you know, it's another -- with the base being right here, you know, it's a phenomenal opportunity for Army families and stuff to come out to the game and support either team or even both teams.


TIM SIMMONS: Brant, kind of give a line-up of how the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is setting up this year.


BRANT RINGLER: Well, obviously Army has already qualified for our game, being the first recipient to accept a bid in the nation. We're just trying to wait to see what happens on the other side  of the ball. A lot of football still to be played. You know, we've got some other awards. We announced yesterday our Great America Patriot Award with Congresswoman Kay Granger and all she does for our defense committee and being a local resident as well, or working closely with the Department of Defense and all the branches to have items on display, military items from the different branches. Over 125 recruits will be inducted into the military. We have over 150 Wounded Warriors to be honored on the field as well. We'll give away a home. We'll give away a car. We'll reunite families from overseas at our game as well. So we have got a lot going on. And, of course, we have to plan

the football game once we know the other team.


TIM SIMMONS: As you've said, it's always more than the game. And congratulations to you.


Q. Yeah, this is Steve Richardson from the Football Writers. I obviously at one point worked in Kansas City, and I know a little bit about Fort Riley. Could you tell me -- can you give us how long has that base been there? How big is it? Some of the particulars about -- and I know it's close. But, like, 17 miles or how close is it to K-State, et cetera. Can someone there just give us some context?


MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: Hey, this is Major Jared Nichols from 1-16 Infantry. To give you some background on Fort Riley, Manhattan, so Fort Riley has been present in the local area since about the 1870s -- 1860s, 1870s. Manhattan, Kansas, was settled roughly about the same time in the Bleeding Kansas era. So there's always been a relationship between Fort Riley offering protection along the frontier for the citizens in Manhattan, Kansas. And then K-State was established in 1863. So soldiers always have been in and around the campus area, either as students or as faculty. So that relationship has been one way. And now since the 1st Infantry Division came here back in the 1990s after returning from Germany, then that kind of really

reestablished that relationship, particularly between the 1st Infantry Division and Manhattan, the Flint Hills, and Kansas State. That's kind of roughly the background. It's a symbiotic relationship. I'd say it's approximately about 20, 24 miles any given day. I myself personally live in Manhattan, so I'm a member of the local community there and I'm a member of the Fort Riley community. And there's a lot of us that live like that as well.


Q. Major Nichols, this is David Jones.

MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: How are you doing, sir?


Q. I was curious about the Black Lions. I know the 28th began as a relationship back when it was started; correct?


MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: Well, as far as the formal partnership agreement, sir, there was a lot of, like -- like, formal partnership agreements spelled out between the first Infantry Division and Kansas State in the past ten years or so where they formalized what it meant, who could provide support to who, and how they would do it so they both had a legal framework for what these partnerships would be. The Black Lions were part of our Fourth Brigade. And when we did the reorganization of units and shuffled around, the 28th was stood down of Army inventory. And so their personnel and stuff were transferred to other units. And 1-16 received the partnership of the football team that the Black Lions had initially established.


Q. I understand. I was going to maybe write something and the Black Lions, I know, go way back into the very beginning of the history of the Army.


MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: Yes. 1-16 in their own right, you now, just to give a background about us, we were founded in 1861, fought everywhere between the Civil War and all your modern conflicts. Our most famous -- you ever seen the painting -- excuse me, the photographs of the Omaha Beach landings with the boats and the ramps drop-in? That's our battalion. So to give you an idea of kind of where we fit in our place in history, that's us. And that's the kind of very high-profile -- pretty high-profile infantry battalion as far as the Army inventory of units goes.

TIM SIMMONS: I see the President of Kansas State is a Former Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers, and he's an Air Force guy. How does he work with the Army folks? I'll leave that up to Gene Taylor to answer.


GENE TAYLOR: (Laughing.) You know, I think he -- obviously, his love and respect and being a four-star chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his respect for all branches of the military are pretty high. And he really values not only just from the military perspective of Fort Riley but, you know, educationally and academically what we can do and help offer, you know, the soldiers either once they're finished with their career or clearly where they're going. I think we do have some academic programs tied in with them. But, you know, having a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as your president, you know, he'll be pretty proud of us on Saturday receiving this award as well.


TIM SIMMONS: Gene, what other programs in the athletic department are involved with Fort Riley? I know it's much more than just football; right?


GENE TAYLOR: Yeah, I believe a lot of our teams -- and I may rely on Kenny to help me withthis -- also go out and do work with some of the -- some of the companies out there as well. Kenny, do you know specifically which other sports besides football?


KENNY LANNOU: Yes. In fact, it's all except for one. And the last one we had is currently being lined up now. So within this year, this academic year, all of our programs will have a partner unit.


TIM SIMMONS: And how many is -- how many sports?




TIM SIMMONS: I would like to thank everybody: Brant, David, Steve Richardson, the executive director of Football Writers, Sean Snyder, Gene Taylor, Kenny Lannou, and especially Major Nichols. Thank you very much. And have a very good Veterans Day.

This teleconference is earlier. Usually we do it on November 11th but, obviously, K-State is a little bit involved that day with the football game. And Coach Snyder and the K-State folks, good luck against the Mountaineers.