03
Sep
10

1st & 10 with Andy Majors

Andy Majors was a standout quarterback for the Gorilla football team from 2002-05 and was a crucial part to the Gorilla’s run to a national runner-up finish in 2004. He holds school records for most passing yards in a season (3,065 in 2005), career completions (352), single-season completions (198 in 2005), single-season completion percentage (.657 in 2004) and single-season total yards (4,028 in 2005). Majors earned three All-MIAA honors, earning first-team honors in 2005, honorable mention in 2004 and also honorable mention as a wide receiver in 2003. An honorable mention All-American by The Football Gazette in 2005, Majors was also successful in the classroom as he earned MIAA Commissioner’s Honor Roll status three times.  Following his time with the Gorillas, Majors spent one year playing arena football for the Omaha Beef.

This summer, Majors took an assistant coaching position for the Ladyjack Women’s Basketball program at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX.  Majors goes to SFA after a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Pittsburg State where he helped lead the Gorillas to a 34-23 record in that time, including a 20-9 record in 2008-09.  Majors also served as the color commentator for all Gorilla football games.

Majors earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from PSU in 2006, and completed his master’s degree in education also from PSU in 2010. He is married to the former A.J. Miller, a four-year softball letterwinner for the Gorillas.

1.  What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

“Being a Pitt State Gorilla means:

ALWAYS HAVING SCHOOL PRIDE…

BECOMING A LEADER…

COMBINING SPIRIT, MIND, AND LOVE…

DISCOVERING YOUR TRUE SELF…

EXPECTING GREATNESS…

FORMING ALLIANCES WITH GREAT PEOPLE…

GORILLA NATION…

HELPING OTHERS ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS…

INDELIBLE MOMENTS, MADE AND MAINTAINED…

JOINING DECADES AND DECADES OF RICH TRADITION…

KNOWING YOUR SOUL LIVES ON…

LOVING YOURSELF FOR WHO YOU ARE…

MAKING YOUR EXPERIENCES AND FRIENDS LIVE ON…

NEVER GIVING UP ON YOUR ULTIMATE GOALS…

ONCE A GORILLA, ALWAYS A GORILLA…

PERSEVERANCE, PERSONAL GROWTH, AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY…

QUALITY OF LIFE…

REMEMBERING YOUR PAST TO BUILD YOUR FUTURE…

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ARE MADE IN PITTSBURG…

TAKING YOUR INNER BEAUTY AND LETTING IT SHINE…

UNDERSTANDING THAT PERFECTION CAN BE ACHIEVED…

VOICING YOUR DESTINY WITH ACTIONS…

WANTING TO CREATE YOUR OWN STORY…

EXPRESSING YOURSELF, BE THE HERO OF YOUR OWN STORY…

YOUR TIME TO SHINE; BE REMEMBERED…

ZEAL, PRIDE, LOVE, AND LIFE…”

2. What is it that makes game day at Pittsburg State so special?  What should people expect if this Saturday’s home opener is going to be their first experience at The Pitt?

“Game day at Pittsburg State truly exemplifies what Pittsburg State is all about-TOGETHERNESS.  It is something that the entire community, Gorilla Nation, and University can build on and create memories.  I would tell people to expect Big Time College Football Tailgating and great school spirit crammed into one parking lot.  Furthermore, go hungry because there is some of the best food in the State of Kansas on that specific Saturday.”

3.  Can you tell us about a special memory that you have from Carnie Smith Stadium after being greeted by your family or fans on the field after a game?

“I was very fortunate to have my parents, best friends, and eventual wife at every game.  Two specific memories that stick out:

1) I remember my Mom and me hugging right on the field after we beat North Dakota in the National Semifinal game in 2004.

2) I always enjoyed signing autographs for fans but this specific one stuck out.  I signed a young boy’s sweatshirt in 2004 and just last Fall I had the same kid in class while student teaching at Frontenac High School.  It was a coincidence that someone got a picture of me signing his sweatshirt and I proceeded to print out the picture and I signed it and gave it to him.  He was so happy, it made my day and I know it made his.  Moments with those young fans will forever stay in my heart.”

4.  If you could be at the game with your family and friends this Saturday against Chadron State, what would you be doing from the hours leading up to the game to the hours after, (hopefully) celebrating another Pitt State victory?

“If I was lucky enough to be at the game this weekend, I probably would be still doing the color commentating with Eddie Lomshek on the radio.  However, I always would enjoy the pre-game festivities at the infamous “SHACK” owned and ran by Joe Beitzinger.  The Beitzinger Family always host great pre-game parties and victory parties.  I’m pretty sure after the Gorillas took care of business against Chadron I would hang out with the Beitzingers and the Lords.”

5. There’s no doubt that Gorilla Football Fans are some of the finest the nation has to offer.  What are some of the things that you love to see from them on game days at The Pitt?

“I love how Gorilla Football Fans are so pure.  I always loved to see the Bleacher Creatures take the field after we did, I always loved our student section heckling the opponents, and I always loved the support the true fans would give you after the game regardless of the outcome.”

6.      We know that you just recently started in your new coaching position at Stephen F. Austin, but what made you decide to go into coaching, and coaching women’s basketball at that?  How have the examples set for you by Coach Broyles, Coach Beck, and the rest of the staff here at PSU affected your coaching style?

“The city of Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin is a great community.  It feels like a larger Pittsburg.  I decided to get into coaching about half way through my college career.  I wanted to pursue a playing career post college as long as I could but when that was finished I wanted to become an English Teacher and Coach.  I have been around sports my entire life and it just makes my mind click.  Sports and Andy just go together.  Coaching Women’s Basketball is not something I ever thought I would be doing.  However, the Head Coach at Pitt State, Lane Lord gave me a chance a few years ago and I am so happy I jumped on board.  This is my career now, and I love every minute of it.

Even though I never coached with Coach Broyles or Coach Beck, I played for them for 5 years and learned so much about the preparation and “moxy” it takes to be successful.  I truly owe a lot to Coach Broyles because he took a chance on me out of high school and he opened doors in my life that I never knew could open.  Coach Beck’s competitive nature bled into my personality and I attack everyday with the competitive nature he instilled into me when I played for him.”

7.      As a quarterback and captain for the Gorillas, you earned the respect of your teammates through your impressive work ethic, vocal leadership, and playmaking ability.  What are some of the things that kept you motivated to be the best player and teammate that you could be?

“It was very flattering to know that I had respect from my teammates because I wouldn’t have been successful without them.  When I trained and performed, I just felt like I owed it to “My Guys” to produce positive results.  Furthermore, when I was elected Captain I knew my responsibility for my team and myself was now elevated.  Along, with the other Captains, we were the faces for the Gorilla Football Team and that is very important.  I took the utmost pride in being a Captain that spoke every Friday night to the Team and I want to think I helped give my teammates encouragement to get better and produce on game days.”

8.       Tell us about your experience broadcasting as the “color man” on KKOW 860 AM with Eddie Lomshek for all of the Gorilla Football games over the last couple of seasons.  What was it like regaining that connection with the Gorillas after your playing days?

“I will tell you this first off about working with Eddie Lomshek, I learned more useful information from Eddie about the country, high school mascots, animals, plants, the Mob, country music and the history of Pittsburg than I ever imagined learning.  Our road trips were legendary and I think it is safe to say I only fell asleep one time during our three years together.  Eddie made my experience so great.  He is a die-hard Pitt State fan and does a lot of great things for the coverage of Pitt State Athletics and area High School Athletics.  My first year in the booth was rather rough.  I still had teammates of mine playing and I wanted to be out there with them so bad.  I felt that Eddie and I worked very well together and not doing the color commentating is going to be one of the main things I will miss about not living in Pittsburg.”

9.   Without a doubt you have memories of many of your teammates.  Can you think of one or two on-field memories of any of them that you’ll never forget?

“Neal Philpot and Josh Lattimer were my favorite players to watch during my time at Pitt State.  One of my favorite memories about Philpot was during the 2004 playoff game vs. Northwest Missouri State.  As we lined up for a 3rd down and 2, Philpot decided not to just get a game sealing first down he wanted to step right on their throat.  This play was designed not to necessarily reach outside the tight end and the Northwest defense knew it was coming.  Philpot took the snap slowly to let the Northwest defense clog up the middle and then he busted it to the outside for a 25 yard touchdown sealing the game with a dive at the pylon.  It was Philpot at his best!!

Now, for Josh Lattimer.  Lattimer was one of the toughest Gorillas that will ever put a uniform on.  In a game during the 2004 season Lattimer intercepted a pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.  It seemed liked it should have been about an 80 yard touchdown because it took Lattimer forever to run 49 yards.  However, he received great downfield blocks and made it into the end zone.  He then proceeded to throw up in the end zone because 49 yards at the speed he was running was a monumental moment for Lattimer.  I will never forget playing alongside these two teammates.”

10.      Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

“Of course, it is so hard to nail down just one favorite moment while playing at Pitt State.  However, I will say that my single favorite moment while playing at Pitt State was celebrating the 2004 MIAA Championship at Arrowhead Stadium after beating Northwest Missouri State with my teammates on the field.  That celebration will forever be vivid in my mind.”

24
Apr
10

1st & 10 with Nick Smith

Nick Smith was a five-year member of the Pitt State football program from 2001-05, lettering his final three seasons as a reserve quarterback and defensive back for the Gorillas.  A Pittsburg native, Smith completed 22 of 27 (.815) career passes for 392 yards and one touchdown after battling injuries early in his career.  Additionally, Smith was a three-time member of the MIAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.  He graduated from PSU with a bachelor’s degree in geography before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps.

1.    What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

“I always felt like being a gorilla was very similar to being a US Marine — in the sense that you were a part of a special fraternity of people that no one else really understands.  I don’t know who created the family-like environment at the school, but it’s a special place.”

2. PSU, undoubtedly, has an extra special place in your heart, Nick, considering the legacy your family has left and is still leaving on campus. Your father, Coach Chuck Smith of St. Mary’s Colgan football fame, played football here, as well as your younger brother Mark, who now coaches here.  On top of that, your two brothers Jeff and Chas are still playing for the Gorillas. What is it that makes Pittsburg State such a special place for a student-athlete, and what is enjoyable about the experience for the families of our student-athletes?

“Pitt State provides an atmosphere for a young athlete that no other place in division II can provide.  If it is not a top 25 Division I school, it will not have a better Saturday afternoon feel than Pitt State. I remember feeling bulletproof when we walked through Gorilla Village, and I’m glad my brothers were able to have that experience. I wish all young men got the chance to have that feeling.  I hope the fans can keep it that way.”

3.    Can you tell us about a memorable experience or moment with a community member (or other non-football related person) that had a special impact on you while you were in school here?

“My professors at Pitt State were top-notch people. Dr. Steve Harmon wrote one of my letters of recommendation that got me into law school. I enjoyed going to listen to him and Dr. Zagorski discuss international issues at the student center. I hope those kinds of debates still go on because that is what democracy and higher education is all about.

Dr. Tim Bailey and his wife, Dr. Katherine Hooey, are personal friends of mine and run the best educational department at Pittsburg State University.  They, along with Michelle Barnaby, were very influential in my awareness of issues inside and outside of America.

Also, to all the boosters who allowed me to go to school on a football scholarship–  I wish my football career was more productive, but injuries slowed me down on the gridiron.  I hope I did you proud in the service, and I will continue to give my best in law school.  I hope I can do the same for future Gorillas someday.

Last, but certainly not least, Brad Wells (might insert his title here) for making sure that the athletes are always taken care of.”

4.    What is something about the school that has changed since when you played here? Do you think it’s a good thing?  Are there any other major changes that particularly stick out in your mind, good or bad?

“Pitt State just keeps improving its campus every chance they get, and I think that is a great thing.  Since I left they have added the Student Rec center where students who aren’t athletes can go workout, play intramural sports, and stay away from the hectic Weede complex.  They also added sky boxes on the west side of the stadium and the Jungletron. When I came back to watch the Gorillas two years ago, I was very impressed with the new additions to Carnie Smith Stadium and the rest of the campus, and I hope we keep going in that direction.

As far as uniforms go, I like the white pants.  Even though we lost the game, I liked the white on white look against Northwest. I also think we should get the stripe back on the helmet.  It worked in the early 90’s and I think it’s time to bring it back.”

5.    We know that you have followed a very challenging career path for the last five years.  Would you tell us about decision to enter the US Marine Corps after graduating from PSU and also if you feel that your time here in the program helped prepare you for that experience?

“Football and the United States Marine Corps are very similar.  It’s all about teamwork, mental toughness, and hard work.  I was in charge of 50 Marines when I got out of Officer Course a year after graduating from Pitt State.  I planned a combat mission just like Coach Beck would plan for an opposing defense.  I worked out so I could make good decisions when I was tired, just like we did during February workouts at Pitt State.  I planned training by the minute, just like Coach Broyles ran practice period by period.  There is no doubt in my mind that Pitt State Football trained me to lead my Marines for the past four years.”

6.    We’ve heard a couple of stories from your time stationed at the US Marine Corps base in Hawaii.  Supposedly, you drove your Jeep around the island with a split face Gorilla license plate and it was actually noticed by another Marine that was a former PSU student.  Also, you had the experience of a lifetime playing basketball on base one day.  Would you tell us a little about those experiences?

“The split face Gorilla license plate story took place in Washington DC.  I was in Officer Basic Course in 2006 and someone pulled up beside me and asked me if I went to Pitt State. After saying yes, they asked me what I thought about the new quarterback.  I told them that the new QB was the real deal.  His name happened to be Mark Smith, so maybe I was a little biased.  I also ran into Gorilla fans on Waikiki Beach on numerous occasions and shared stories about Pittsburg, Kansas.

Playing basketball with President Obama was a cool experience. I won’t tell you the results of the game, because it may hurt him in the next election if I told you what the score was! On the serious side, he was very down to earth, and it was fun to talk to him before I went to Iraq for a second time.”

7.    You experienced some great years of Gorilla football playing under Coach Broyles and have experienced first-hand the proud tradition at Pitt State.  How do you think Coach Beck is doing/will do carrying on that tradition now and in the future?

“I was lucky to play for Coach Broyles.  He was hard on us but always ran the program with a family type atmosphere.  As for right now, Coach Beck is the right man for the job.  I know he will win games and more importantly, he will send quality young men into the world after they are done playing.  We are in good hands with Coach Beck calling the shots. He could be at the Division I level if he wanted to be. We are lucky.”

8. Without a doubt you have memories of many of your teammates.  Can you think of a couple on-field memories of any of them that you’ll never forget?

“Elliot Austin bending his facemask after hitting a player from Central is one. I felt bad for the opponent, because I know what it’s like on kickoff return and having giants like Elliot run at you full speed.  Also, anytime Joe Taylor got the chance to run the ball or catch a pass was a treat for me. We were high school teammates, and I loved watching him perform on Saturday.”

9. If you could pass some wisdom on to current and future Gorillas what would it be?

“Bust your butt in the classroom. I tore my knee and broke my foot and finally realized that football was not going to be the way I made a living.  You never know what you will want to do later in life. I went to the Marine Corps because of the war, but when my time ended, I wanted to practice law. I’m glad that I had a wake up call early in my college career and started to hit the books.

Also take these three classes at Pitt State if possible. All taught by three of the best professors Pitt State has.

1) Introduction to Research Writing from Dr. Donald Judd

2) Dance Appreciation from Janice Jewett

3) Camping and Outdoor Education from Dr. Scott Gorman”

10. Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

“Playing football with my brother Mark.  Mark and I backed up Andy (Majors) my senior year.  Mark is my all-time favorite football player and I enjoyed getting to be his teammate one more time before I left for the Marines.  Also, playing for the Division II National Championship my junior year would have to be a close second.”

09
Mar
10

1st & 10 with Shane Tafoya

Shane Tafoya was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American linebacker for the Gorillas in 1990 and 1991. The Roy, Utah, native was named the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1991, while helping the Gorillas to a 13-1-1 record and the DII National Championship.  Tafoya has worked in the energy industry as either a trader or rep for the last 18 years. He has resided in Tampa, Fla., for the past nine years.  Shane has two children, Alexis, 15, and Colton, 10.

1.      What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

It means a lot to me for the accomplishments that I can look back on, and the many friends that I made.  Pitt is a nationally known football program and great college because of its history, and to be a part of that is an honor.

2.      Living so far away from Southeast Kansas, do you ever have the opportunity to come back and see the Gorillas?  If so, how often and how special is it for you when you get the opportunity? What would you say is your favorite thing about the town of Pittsburg?

I try to get back for at least one game every year to see old football and college friends.  Seeing the people of Pittsburg is the best thing.  Being back brings back a lot of great memories.

3.      On your most recent visit back into town this fall, you had the opportunity to speak with the 2009 Gorillas.  What was that experience like for you and what kinds of things did you say to those players?

It is an honor to come back and speak to any Pitt team because of the pride and history of the program, and to share that tradition with the younger players.  I told them to have fun and enjoy this opportunity because it goes by fast.  I also told them to respect the uniforms and the program for all the players and coaches who came before them and to play hard and listen to their coaches.  And the number one thing – stick together as a team no matter what.  I believe that is the one reason the 1991 team won the national title.

4.      What is something about the school that has changed since when you played here? Do you think it’s a good thing?  Are there any other major changes that particularly stick out in your mind?

WOW – the new stadium additions – suites, Jungletron.  By far THE best D2 stadium in the country. I also like the new school of technology building that was constructed after I left campus.

5.      Can you tell us about a memorable experience or moment with a community member (or other non-football related person) that had a special impact on you while you were in school here?

Meeting Ken and Marilyn Bishop.  They took me in as a friend and family member when I was home sick and ready to quit being so far from home (Utah).   Also, Ange and John Peterson who did the same.  There are several people and business owners who I want to thank for their support, not just for me, but for all of the players and coaches.

6.      Defensive players typically thrive on intensity and enthusiasm, and you played on some great team defenses while you were here. Were there ever goals that you guys had for yourselves on D or any special rituals or traditions that you remember?

I believe our defense was so good because we trusted each other.  We were all very close off the field.  We took care of each other with football or non-football related issues.  In fact, that was our  team motto kind of – we all just wanted to have fun and win.  We just took care of one game at a time.

7.      Head Coach Tim Beck spent the last 16 seasons as the Offensive Coordinator for the Gorillas, but some people would be surprised to know that he was the Inside Linebackers coach when you played.  What did you think of Coach Beck then and what kind of leadership do you think he’ll provide for PSU Football?

I respect Coach Beck.  He is very intense, but he is a players’ coach.  We are very good friends and I support him and wish him nothing but success.  He is an excellent coach and will provide a lot of leadership.  He’s also a great family man and father to his kids.

8.      Without a doubt you have memories of many of your teammates.  Can you think of a couple on-field memories of any of them that you’ll never forget?

Well, beating East Texas State (now A&M-Commerce) in the playoffs –  revenge for them snapping the winning streak (PSU 56-game regular season win streak).  Also, the game in Portland.  After winning and knowing we were going to the show – huge!!  And for two of my brothers to watch me play – they drove up from Utah to see us.  And for my Mom and all my brothers to make it to a game in Pitt was amazing.

9.      What would you say is the best thing that you were able to take away from your entire experience as a student-athlete at PSU?

The opportunity to meet so many great professors and people on campus!!  Most of my best friends I met at Pitt, either in class or on the field.  Oh, and Yes, Winning the National Title!!

10.  Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing for the Gorillas?

Obviously, it is the national title! But if I had another it would be when all of the team was together and you look around at the players next to you and see the love, passion and desire we had for each other – not just the starters, but everyone on the team!

17
Feb
10

1st & 10 with Steve Wells

Steve Wells is beginning his third season as the Gorillas’ offensive line coach after joining the Pitt State staff on Jan. 10, 2008.  Wells returned to campus in 2008 after a three-year absence.  The Riverton, Kan., native served as a graduate assistant offensive line coach from 2002-04, after enjoying a decorated playing career for the Gorillas from 1997-2001.  Prior to returning to his alma mater, Wells served as offensive line coach at Joplin (Mo.) High School for three years.  As a player, he earned third-team NCAA-II All-America and first-team All-MIAA honors as an offensive lineman as a senior for the Gorillas in 2001, helping Pitt State to an MIAA title, an 11-2 record and an NCAA-II national quarterfinalist finish.  Wells enjoyed a six-year playing career, redshirting in his initial season at Pitt State in 1996 and exercising a medical redshirt in 1997.  Steve, and his wife Kindyl, have a daughter, Elizabeth, 3, and a son, Slate, 1.

1. What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

Being raised in Southeast Kansas and brought up with Midwest morals and then becoming a Pitt State Gorilla, there is one word that best describes being a Gorilla, “Family.”  The saying, “Once a Gorilla, Always a Gorilla” means so much more than a lot of outsiders think.

2. It’s obvious that PSU has a special place in your heart, having played here and now serving as an assistant coach at your alma mater. What makes Pittsburg State such a special place for a student-athlete?  A coach?

As a student-athlete, I was able to develop unbelievable relationships with people all across campus.  I cannot say enough about the many former instructors I had as a student-athlete who had such a positive influence on my life.

I owe so much to this program, the University, the community of Pittsburg, so now as a coach I see it as an opportunity to give something back to those who I owe so much to.

3. Having lived in other areas where the support for an athletic program may not be like it is here in Pittsburg, what would you say is your favorite thing about the town?

The amount of pride in which this community has for this program and University.  There is no better place in America than at Carnie Smith Stadium on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.  One of my favorite things to do is to drive by the stadium’s parking lot after our pre-game meal is finished.  You roll down your windows and you see all the fans, listen to the music and smell all the cookers.

4. Can you tell us about a memorable experience or moment with a community member (or other non-football related person) that had a special impact on you while you were in school here?

It was all the opportunities you had to interact with the youth in the community.  Whether it was the YMCA clinics, visits to classrooms, or on game day, those experiences with the young fans are the things I will always remember.

5. What is something about the school that has changed since when you played here? Do you think it’s a good thing?  Are there any other major changes that particularly stick out in your mind?

The constant evolution of the University drives the school towards student success.  Just take a walk around campus and you’ll see all the changes and development.  Everything on campus is geared toward the students.

6. Pitt State has always had enormous success in the running game, due largely in part to some of its great Offensive Lines.  Were there ever goals that you guys had for yourselves on the Line or any special rituals or traditions that you remember?

When you look at the history of Pittsburg State Football, the teams that have been successful have always started with a great Offensive Line.  The Offensive Line must take on the responsibilities of being the hardest workers, being the leaders, setting the examples for all teammates on and off the field.  One special ritual that the offensive linemen have, and it includes the defensive linemen, is their pre-game stretching routine outside the stadium in Gorilla Village.

7. What has it felt like to come back and coach for the program that you poured so much of yourself into as a player?  Has it ever been challenging? If so, in what way?

There is no other place I would rather be than here at Pittsburg State.  I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity.  As far as challenges, there are always challenges.  It’s those challenges that drive you to be better.

8. You experienced many great years of playing and coaching under Coach Broyles and have experienced first-hand the proud tradition of Pitt State Football. Having just barely begun your time under Coach Beck, what are some things as a staff that you have specifically acknowledged as very important aspects of the program?

First, I would like to thank Coach Broyles.  He played a vital role in my development as a player and in my coaching career.  As a member of the coaching staff, I believe we as a program need to reestablish the tradition that there will not be a team as mentally or as physically tough as the Gorillas.  This is something that will not happen overnight.  It is going to take time, dedication and growth within our program.  Not only do we have to do it within ourselves, but we are going to have to earn it back within our conference and the rest of the country.

9. Without a doubt you have memories of many of your teammates.  Can you think of a couple on-field memories of any of them that you’ll never forget?

One that I will always remember was in 2001.  We were playing at Missouri Western and we had lost in both of our two previous trips there.  Late in the fourth quarter, all we needed to do was get one more first down to run out the clock and it was third and two.  In the huddle, Neal Philpot (who was just starting his fourth game as a freshman) called 12 veer and then looked at Jesse Owens (probably the toughest player on the field) and said, “If you fumble, I’m going to kick your —!”  At that point, everyone else in the huddle just froze and looked at each other wide-eyed.  From that moment on, it was Neal Philpot’s huddle.  He wasn’t looked upon as a freshman anymore.

10. Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

The moments after the game on Saturday afternoons.  Those moments in the locker room with teammates and coaches, and those outside the stadium with family and friends.  I was very fortunate to experience the joys of winning a lot more than the agonies of defeat.  “Once a Gorilla, Always a Gorilla.”

10
Feb
10

1st & 10 with Rex Garner

Rex Garner finished a two-year career at Pittsburg State University as the fourth-leading rusher in school history, despite appearing in just 19 games for the Gorillas. Garner rushed for 1,786 yards and 12 touchdowns on 385 carries, twice earning first-team NAIA All-District 10 and honorable mention NAIA All-America honors in 1975-76.  A Pittsburg native, Garner originally signed with NCAA Division I SMU out of high school, before transferring to Pitt State for his final two seasons. Garner, who has gone on to enjoy a highly successful career as an insurance agent following his collegiate career, was inducted into the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame in the Class of 2004.

1. What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

Once a Gorilla always a Gorilla. In my job I do a lot of traveling, whether it be to Dallas, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kansas City, Kansas, or Las Vegas, Nevada. In conversations people ask where I am from, I say, “Pittsburg, Kansas.” They say, “The Home of the Gorillas, you all have a power house of a football program.” I am extremely proud of Pitt State’s reputation, and proud to say I am a Gorilla.

2. What makes Pittsburg State such a special place for a student-athlete? Since you’re a life-long Pittsburg resident, what would you say is your favorite thing about the town?

The university is just the right size to get a great education, and not get lost in a mass of students. You can get more individual attention, communication, and interaction with teachers and students. This is very beneficial for a student-athlete trying to balance the demands of a hectic academic schedule with practice and games. If you are not at a certain level in the classroom, you will not be eligible to play. You want to be on the field, and the coaches and fans want you out there as well!

One of my favorite things about the town is how much the community is involved and supportive of Pitt State. We especially love football. You can feel the excitement on game day; Pittsburg is definitely a football town.

3. Can you tell us about a memorable experience or moment that you had while in school at Pitt State that was non-football related?

One memory that sticks out is from Al Ortolani’s (our athletic trainer at the time) class. He wanted to boost his students’ participation, and at the same time try to disprove the idea that student-athletes are dumb. So he chose me to help him with this goal. Before each class he would give me the answer to one of the questions he was going to ask. It went so well, once everyone saw how I was answering correctly they tried to answer the questions too. At the same time everybody thought I was one smart guy. Towards the end of the semester Mr. Ortolani decided it was time to let all my classmates know about our little deal. Instead of just telling everyone he decided to do something a little more creative. He asked the questions just like usual, and I gave the answer. The answer however was so far off and had nothing to with the question that everyone knew what was going on. I think this kind of practical joke could only happen at this size of university. It was a great moment, and really served to unite student-athletes with students. Some of the friends I made in that class became lifetime friends and even clients of mine at my business here in Pittsburg.

4. Do you feel that the education you received at PSU prepared you for your future and has helped you achieve some of your career goals?

Absolutely, yes! I received a degree with a major in Physical Education and a minor in Biology/Business. I had some fantastic professors at Pitt State. They were always willing to work with you one on one. A tutor would be provided if you needed one, basically they wanted to make sure that you learned and excelled in the classroom.

I signed to play Division I Football at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Dallas, Texas. At that time we were in the Southwest Conference and played against Texas, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Texas A&M, etc. At a large university I did not get that individual attention and comfort of a small classroom setting like I did at Pitt State. There was no way a professor would ask questions of the students or encourage discussion, it was more straight lecturing. It was hard to keep up and focused with between 100-300 students in each course, and you end up feeling just like another face in the crowd. It was much easier to learn and excel here at Pitt State.

5. What is something about the school that has changed since when you played here? Do you think it’s a good thing? Are there any other major changes that particularly stick out in your mind?

There have been many positive changes to the school since I played, to name a few, student enrollment and a lot of building and infrastructural improvements and additions have enhanced PSU. I have been following the renovation of our football stadium, additions have been made to the seating capacity, sky boxes have been added, new Fieldturf, and the ‘Jungletron’. This stadium is not second to anyone’s.  Recently I attended the National Junior College Championship Game here at Pitt State in the sky box area. There were Division I assistant coaches in the box scouting the junior college players. All the coaches (from OU/Kansas/Nebraska/K-State, etc.) agreed that our stadium was a smaller version of their stadiums. What a great stadium for our players and fans!

6. You came to PSU after spending a couple of years playing at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. What was so special about PSU that made you want to transfer and what was the difference between playing in the Division I program and our Division II program?

I signed out of high school to play for SMU’s Division I program which was in the Southwest Conference. Because of an injury to our starting right half back in the third game of my true freshman year I was called on to start. I think the only major difference was playing on a losing Division I team versus playing on a winning Division II team. It is so much more exciting and fun when you are winning. Pitt State is the most winning program in Division II.

7. It’s obvious how much pride you still have in Gorilla Football knowing that you still attend all the home games and have invested in a skybox at Carnie Smith Stadium. Could you give us another recent example of how much pride you still take in being a part of the Gorilla family? Do you still keep in contact with any of the guys that you played with?

I always bring up Pitt State Football on all my travels. I like to take my friends and colleagues to watch the games in our sky box. What an exciting experience to share my passion for Pitt State Football. Everyone who has experienced it says they love it!

8. You played for two different head coaches during your time as a player and you’ve also seen a few other very successful head coaches come through the program. What kind of effect do you think new Head Coach Tim Beck will have on this program?

Coach Beck will bring excitement, honesty and integrity to our program. He cares about his players and team morale. He is someone you can believe in and trust. Coach Beck is someone I would love to play for, and I would trust my son to play for him.

9. How did it make you feel being inducted into the Pitt State Hall of Fame?

Words cannot explain it! To be honored and placed in a class of such great players, ones that have played before me and after me. I wish every player could experience that moment.

10. Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

Having a scout from the Cleveland Browns come up to me after a game and introduce himself. He told me to secure an agent, and that if I did not get drafted, that they were going to sign me as a free agent.

27
Jan
10

1st & 10 with Brian Barta

Brian Barta played tight end for Pitt State from 2005-07.  The La Crosse, Kansas, native finished his career as a two-time All-MIAA performer.  He caught 22 passes for 261 yards and eight touchdowns during his career.  Barta also earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors his senior season, and he was a member of the MIAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.  He currently works for Wendling Noe Nelson & Johnson LLC in Topeka.  Barta is an auditor for the firm. He’s currently preparing for the CPA exam.  Brian married his college sweetheart, Ellie Graul from Paola, Kansas, on May 2, 2009.

Brian would also like you to know that he is really good looking.  He said, “Everybody knows it already, but it never hurts to remind them.”

1.  What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

It’s being part of a family.  Each family member is expected to give everything of themselves for everyone else.  It’s a family built on pride and tradition.

2.  What is the one attribute of PSU that was most influential in making the decision to attend PSU over all of the other schools that recruited you?

It was definitely the rich tradition.  I wanted to go to a school that expected to be the best every year.  Being able to compete at a high level was important to me.

3.  What makes Pittsburg State such a special place for a student-athlete?  What is your favorite thing about the town?

It’s a great environment for a student-athlete to thrive.  The smaller classes and individual attention the professors can provide is truly beneficial to students trying to juggle all the class work along with the responsibilities that come with being an athlete.  The community support is outstanding for all aspects of the University but especially Gorilla Football.

4.  Can you tell us about a memorable experience or moment that you had while in Pittsburg that was non-football related?

Really….You want me to start pulling stories out???

Pittsburg is a great college town.  It has everything you’d need to have a great college experience.  Let’s just leave the details to the imagination.

5.  You are another one of the many exceptional Gorillas that we’ve had in the classroom, as well as on the field.  Do you feel that the education you received here prepared you for your future and has helped you achieve some of your career goals?

I definitely do.  The skills and knowledge that I have learned and developed at Pitt State have allowed me to start on a path that looks very promising.   The accounting world may not be as exciting as Saturdays in “The Jungle” but it’s rewarding in other ways.

6.  Without a doubt, student-athletes at the collegiate level have a lot on their plates and have to manage their time wisely.  Was this something that you ever struggled with?  In your time playing for the Gorillas, how did carrying the extra responsibility affect you?

I had goals and expectations for myself on and off the field.  There were some late night cram sessions. However, I can’t say that I was overwhelmed.  It was just a matter of knowing what you had to do and then getting it done.

7.  You came to PSU after spending a couple of years playing at Garden City Community College leaving you with just three seasons in Pittsburg.  Yet when we ask people about you, they tell us that you take as much pride or more in being a Gorilla as all of the four and five year guys that have played here.  What is it about Pitt State football that allowed you to inherit so much pride in being a Gorilla?

When I came to Pitt I found something that JuCo was missing.  It wasn’t every man for himself anymore.   I felt accepted since I first stepped foot on campus.  The bonds that teammates share grow extremely strong when they share passion and expectations to be the very best.  I was surrounded by a great group of men that would have given anything if I would have asked them.  K.A.W.C.

8.  Could you give us a recent example of how much pride you still take in being a part of the Gorilla family?

I had the opportunity to attend the football banquet last weekend.   Everyone knows that last season wasn’t the high point for most Gorillas, but I wanted to be there to thank the men that I had played with personally and remind them that their careers are not defined in a single season.  I’m extremely proud to be associated with each of them.

9.  Tell us about your experience playing for Coach Tim Beck.  What was that relationship like?  How did he treat you as a player?  What quality does he have as a coach that you enjoyed the most?

I loved playing for Coach Beck.  He has been dedicated to coaching at Pitt State almost as long as I’ve been alive.  I have a great deal of respect for Coach Beck.  As a coach he demands nothing less than perfection.   He shows great trust in his players and their abilities.  Even if that means we run 36 G-Option until the cows come home.  His hard work and dedication set the tone at the top and he is just the man to lead the Pitt State Gorillas.  I do have to give a shout-out to Larry Garman.  He has been a great mentor and coach to me over the years.

10.  Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

Playing at Pitt State has given me many great memories and countless friends to share them with.  I’d have to say one of the things I most enjoyed about playing at Pitt were Andy Majors Friday night speeches.  I was so pumped after our meetings I would have the hardest time falling asleep.  He could have led me into the fires of hell and I would have followed.  I guess all I need to say (for those that were there)……BOOM!



20
Jan
10

1st & 10 with Aaron Hight

Aaron Hight was a two-time first team All-MIAA defensive back for the Gorillas, earning all-conference honors in each of his final two seasons at Pitt State in 2001 and 2002.  The native of Riverton, Kansas lettered four years (1999-2002) after redshirting in his initial season with the Gorillas in 1998.  He was voted a team captain by his peers during his senior season, in which he recorded 75 tackles and one interception as Pitt State’s starting free safety.  He finished his career with 215 tackles and eight interceptions.  For his work in the classroom, Hight earned second-team Academic All-America® honors in 2002.  He also was a two-time member of the MIAA All-Academic Team.  Aaron currently works as a project manager for Crossland Construction, overseeing projects in Kansas City, Fort Worth, Texas, and Southern California.  He married the former Lacey Garvin in June 2008.  The couple reside in his hometown, Riverton, Kansas.

1.  What does being a Pitt State Gorilla mean to you?

“It means Pride, Loyalty, Commitment, Intensity, Honor, Excitement, Dedication, Respect, & Tradition just to name a few. Pittsburg State has molded me into the person I am today and I could not even imagine going anywhere else. Being a Gorilla is not just a thought, it is a way of life!”

2.  What is the one attribute of PSU that was most influential in making the decision to attend PSU over all the other schools that recruited you?

“Tradition… I came to PSU to win! Pittsburg State has an amazing athletic program, the coaches care about each member of the team, and they push you to be the best you can be at all times. We pride ourselves in being great student-athletes, and it is evident will all the academic all-Americans our program has produced. PSU has an outstanding educational program, as well as, athletic program… Pittsburg had everything I ever wanted and more!”

3.  What makes Pittsburg State such a special place for a student-athlete?  What is your favorite thing about the town?

“As far as being a student-athlete in Pittsburg, Kansas:  you get the best education and training as any other school within a 300 mile radius. On average, our technology program wins competitions against numerous Division I schools. We have a higher placement after graduation than any other school in the area as well.  Pittsburg is the most football crazy town in the Midwest. Just come to a game and you can see the people out tailgating before it even gets light outside. There is so much pride throughout the area that no matter where you go you see PSU fans.”

4.  What did being named a captain for the football team mean to you?

“It was an amazing feeling! Being voted captain by your fellow teammates is the biggest honor any player can achieve. It signifies all the hard work and dedication you have put into making the program and your team better.”

5.  Being named a captain, your teammates obviously had a lot of respect for you.  Do you still keep in touch with the guys that you played with?

“I still get to see a lot of my teammates, some of which I get to work with at Crossland Construction. On occasion we do some tailgating before the home games and catch up. I enjoy talking to everyone and finding how their life has gone after football.”

6.  Besides being an All-American on the football field, you were also an Academic All-American in 2002 and were outstanding in the classroom throughout your entire time at PSU.  Do you feel that the education you received here prepared you for your future and has helped you achieve some of your career goals?

“Definitely… the instructors I had in the technology program are the best in the Midwest and prepared me for a great future in the construction industry. I am currently building 15 million dollar projects and have worked in seven different states. I would not be in the position I am today if I had not worked hard on and off the field at PSU.”

7.  It’s been nearly eight years since your last football game as a player.  Do you still get a chance to watch the team play?

“I have not missed a home game since I stopped playing and go to several away games every year. I still wake up on game day excited!!! Just because my college days are over, I still consider myself part of the team. “Once a Gorilla, always a Gorilla!” I would play again in a heartbeat if Coach Beck could find some more eligibility for me. I will be waiting on that call!!! “

8.  How much pride do you still take in being a part of the Gorilla family?

“Being a Gorilla is a state on mind… the gorilla family continues all year long and is very evident when driving around and seeing the license plates. Gorillas are kings of their surroundings and are leaders everywhere they go. The pride in my school and my team will never falter and will always overcome.”

9.  Tell us about your experience playing for Coach Tim Beck.  What was that relationship like?  How did he treat you as a player?  What quality does he have as a coach that you enjoyed the most?

“Playing for Coach Beck was an awesome experience. Our relationship was and still is great on and off the field of battle. He treated me with respect as I did him. He brought out the best in me at all times, not just in football. We both worked hard to better each other during practice and it showed on game day. Coach Beck is a great leader and will take this program to the next level!”

10.  Lastly, if you can think of just one, what was your single favorite moment while playing at PSU?

“I would have to say my interception for a touchdown at the first Northwest/PSU clash at Arrowhead in KC… We never gave up, even at the very end of the game. There were so many other moments in my career at PSU that I will cherish forever and would not have dreamed it any other way. Looking back, PSU was the greatest choice for schools I could have ever made. I regret nothing and treasure everything during my years at PSU!”




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