Braden Wilson grew up in the small town of Smith Center, Kansas pulling for the Kansas State Wildcats and the Kansas City Chiefs. He’ll get to wear both uniforms in his football career.
Ranked by NFL.com as the third fullback in the NFL Draft, Wilson was selected in the sixth-round by the Chiefs. After red shirting his freshman year at Kansas State, he played in every game for the rest of his four years in college. He’s been described as the toughest player in the Big 12, and puts most of his work into blocking. He blocked for the likes of Daniel Thomas and Collin Klein at Kansas State, and now he’ll be blocking for Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles just a short drive away from Manhattan, Kansas.
Braden Wilson (BW): We didn’t really know any better, any different. We didn’t know there were other high schools playing in front of 10 to 20,000 people. We just thought that’s how it was, that’s what we knew. For us, football is everything. We put a lot of focus and a lot of time into it. It was fun. All of us who played were very close to each other and we put in a lot of work. We enjoyed it, but we took it very seriously.
CH: Mark Simoneau, your current trainer and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, is from Smith Center, Kansas. Is that how you guys connected? Or did you meet another way?
BW: Because a lot of people still talk about Mark in Smith Center, I had heard that he had a gym in Kansas City, and I knew I was going to be living in Kansas City with my brother and my sister-in-law. So I got a hold of him, my brother got a hold of him for me. I called him and asked him if I could get in with him to train. That’s how that worked out.
CH: His gym is relatively close to Kansas State, are there any of your teammates training there?
BW: There are a couple of us. (Linebacker) Jarell Childs trained with Mark all through January and February, leading up to our Pro Day. (Defensive back) Jarard Milo was with us as well as (tight end) Travis Tannahill.
CH: How do you think Kansas State found you, coming from a small town like Smith City, Kansas?
BW: My senior year was the year we got all of that national attention. That brought on a lot of attention from a lot of attention from a lot of different school. And it just so happened that K-State was the only Division 1 school that had actually offered me a scholarship, so that made my decision pretty easy.
CH: Can you recap your five years of football at K-State?
BW: I saw as drastic of a change in the attitude and the mindset of a team as you could ever witness. When I walked in, everybody was really worried about themselves. Now they’re all about team unity in there. Coach (Bill) Snyder they came in and hired a very good staff underneath him. We just slowly turned the whole attitude of the team around, and I think that was the biggest part of our success: uniting the team in that sense. People were worried about winning than their own personal stats, and things like that.
CH: What were some of your most memorable times on and off the field at Kansas State?
BW: A couple things I know for sure that I will never forget, as far as on the field. I have a whole lot of memories, but I’d have to say my most memorable moment was my senior year, this last year, when we were beating Texas our final game of the season, we had sealed the Big 12 Championship, Willy did the KSU chant on top of the press box. I hadn’t seen him do that since I believe ’98. That was just an awesome moment in our season and in my career.That was something I’ll never forget, that was amazing.
One thing that I’ll always remember off the field was just how close the team had gotten. We would have, not Mandatory or anything barbecue. One person would grill out at their house and the majority of the team would come over and hang out and have a good time. Things like that, where the whole team is getting together, without coach making us do it. Stuff like that, as well, is a memory. The comradery we had on the team and the some great friends on the team that I’ll never forget.
CH: What kind of things, on the field and off the field, did you learn at Kansas State?
BW: I learned a lot, especially playing for Bill Snyder. He’s a guy that really harps on the smaller things. I’d say the main thing I learned, and you’ve heard this a thousand times from Bill Snyder’s players, but it’s so true: you learn to do the little things right. You learn to take care of little things. Once you realize, if you’re not taking care of smaller things, not paying attention to the details of your life, you have to think about the other things that aren’t taken care of. That leads you to success, not only in football, but in general in life.
CH: As far as on the field, you blocked for Daniel Thomas, John Hubert and you add Collin Klein to the mix. What was it like running all of these schemes in a unique offense?
BW: It was awesome knowing that I’m blocking for the man behind me that I know is going to make something out of nothing. They’re going to get something done one way or the other. That always motivated me to just throw myself out there and sacrifice my body for them. When you know that the man is giving that much effort, it makes you want to give that same effort for them, for them to get it done. Nobody plays a perfect game, so you might have a slip up here or there, but when you do and you have someone as talented as the guy behind me, they’ll still get the job done. That was always nice to know.
I’ve been blessed to have been able to play with players such as Daniel (Thomas) and Collin (Klein) and even John (Hubert).
CH: H0w would you describe how you play on the field?
BW: I play with a lot of intensity. I’m a very physical player, that’s really my game. I don’t like any nonsense on the field. I put my head down and I play my game. I’m going to sacrifice myself for the team and hope others do the same. I love the game and I love my teammates.
CH: Can you rundown how much it helped graduating last season and only focusing on football for a whole year?
BW: It helps a lot. Not having to worry about having graduation coming up and making sure you take care of that… that’s a big relief in stress. That’s something you just don’t have to worry about where you can just turn all of your focus to what you’re doing, the reason that you’re at the school you’re at. It gives you an opportunity to do that. It helped a lot, it did.
CH: Can you talk about the combine and your pro day at Kansas State and your preparation for those events?
BW: I got with my agent shortly after the Fiesta Bowl, I believe it was two days later. They flew me out to Southern California that Monday, where I immediately began training and working out for the NFL Combine. I trained with a guy named Scott Prohaska, he was an Olympic trainer. He’s very good at what he does. I was out there until March 10, I flew back for our Pro Day on March 12.
In the mean time, while I was out there, I went to the Combine, that was a great experience in itself. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience that, then we had our Pro Day on March 12. That was great to see great to see al of our teammates come, and everybody showed up and did a great job. After that I took a week off, went back and saw some family in Western Kansas, part of Nebraska and Eastern Kansas even. Then the next Monday after that, I got a hold of Mark Simoneau and began training with him. I’ve been living in Kansas City ever since.
CH: What did you enjoy most about the combine?
BW: What I enjoyed the most was being able to met the coaches and scouts of teams. That was probably my favorite part of it, was just interacting with all of them, getting a feel for what they’re looking for, what they like to see, what they’re thinking about. That was probably, I’d say, my favorite part of Indianapolis.
CH: If you were to compare your skills to someone, anyone, or someone you looked up to as a kid and formed your game after, who would it be?
BW: I remember when I was younger, my favorite player to watch was (retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback) Mike Alstott. I remember coming up through the program when I was younger, I would try to emulate my style after him, but it was hard to do. He was a great player. I wouldn’t say that my playing style remind me of him. I’ve been asked this question a lot, I’ve put a lot of thought into it, but I can’t ever think of anybody who has a similar playing style to mine. I feel that I have a unique playing style. I just try to do me, I don’t really try to take after anybody. I just do my thing.
CH: When did you start playing football in Smith Center?
BW: We don’t have Pop Warner or Little League, or whatever people call it. We start in seventh grade. That’s your first year that you can play football in Smith Center. I started at 12 years old.
CH: What were you playing? Were you a big guy?
BW: I think i n seventh grade I came in pretty big, but I was a late bloomer, so in eighth grade and then freshman year I didn’t really change much in size. In junior high I was a running back, which I ended up playing all the way through, but I ended up playing linebacker as well. In high school, I was moved down to a defensive end, I played stand up nine.
Note: “stand up nine” is the defensive end in a wide nine defense. This player stands a few steps outside the offensive tackle in what looks like a track stance., and explodes off the line. It gives the defense a combination of speed and power as they get the chance to take multiple steps before meeting the offensive tackle.
CH: Now it’s April, it’s Draft Day. Where were you expecting to land?
BW: We knew I had a good chance to be drafted in the xith or seventh rounds, but we decided not to get our hopes up and just say, “I’m not going to get drafted, I’m going free agency.” So that’s what we were expecting. So when it did come time, the Chiefs called me up, it was a bonus. It was awesome.
CH: The first two days to get drafted? Just watching intently, I guess.
BW: I did watch the draft, the first two days, and I knew I wouldn’t go in those two days. But I was a spectator for those two days, like everybody else. I knew I had some teammates who had a chance to go that early, and I wanted to see how they did.
CH: When you get that call from the Chiefs, describe that moment to me?
BW: I was in Kansas City at my brother and sister-in-law’s house and my parents had driven up from Great Bend, but my sister could not make it, she was busy at work, out of state. It was just us five hanging out at the house waiting around for a phone call.
CH: Who is on the phone when you get the call?
BW: It was the GM John Dorsey. There were about 30 seconds left on the clock and he said. “I hope you’re ready. We just made you a Chief.” I had it on speaker phone, so my family could hear it, and they started jumping up, and yelling, and going nuts, as you could imagine. I couldn’t have been happier with the way things fell into place.
CH: When you got drafted, have you ever had a better feeling than that moment?
BW: I’m sure I have, but I don’t remember when. It was an awesome feeling. That was one of the best days of my life.
CH: For an NFL team or the Chiefs, more specifically, what do you think you bring to the table?
BW:I bring a decent amount of versatility. I played some fullback in college. I moved around a lot. I did a lot of what an H-back would do. I primarily played a true fullback where, sometimes I would step back into one back, where it was just be me and Collin (Klein) in the backfield. Like I said, I showed a lot of versatility throughout college and, along with that. I think I have a pretty good work ethic. As a team player, I understand my role. I’m a physical player, and very adaptable as well.
CH: What in the NFL are you looking most forward to? Not only with the Chiefs, but in the league?
BW: Just being given the opportunity to play in the NFL, especially for the team that I grew up cheering for. I couldn’t imagine a better situation. It’s an amazing opportunity and I want to do what I can, I want to do everything I can to help the team out and try to capitalize on the situation.
CH: Anything else you’d like to share or any closing thoughts?
BW: Not really. I do want to say, thanks for having me Christian.