LAWRENCE — The face of Kansas football’s most prosperous period, Todd Reesing vividly remembers what the highest of highs for this program looked like.
Under that lens, his observation about the Jayhawks’ new-look spring game held Saturday night at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium becomes all the more notable.
“You know, when I was here it certainly wasn’t as big of an occasion,” said Reesing, who played in the earlier alumni game and was on the sideline for the retooled spring contest dubbed Late Night Under the Lights. “With everything they’re doing — the alumni game and the (postgame Rick Ross) concert, trying to get the fans involved in various ways — I think it’s really awesome. I think it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be entertaining and exciting.”
Reesing was among the 30-or-so former Jayhawks to return to Lawrence for the festivities, which concluded with a concert from the hip-hop superstar Ross. The spring game itself was more of a simulated scrimmage, pitting offense-versus-defense in a 45-7 victory for the offense held in front of a few thousand onlookers.
While no official attendance number was provided, the turnout appeared to easily eclipse the showing at recent spring games, perhaps of any since Reesing’s last season a decade ago. Reesing had a brief interaction with Les Miles at an alumni golf event earlier in the week but didn't need to meet the first-year head coach to understand why he has cultivated a buzz around the program.
“I think his résumé and his pedigree speaks for itself, what he accomplished at LSU and before that at Oklahoma State,” Reesing said. “He obviously knows how to recruit, he knows how to coach and he knows how to build a program. So we’re excited to have someone like that at the top. ...
“We’re all excited to be back. There is a lot of energy and it’s been fun so far.”
Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, one of the most successful former Jayhawks currently at the NFL level, echoed that sentiment. An undrafted-free-agent-signee-turned-four-time-Pro-Bowl-selection, Harris said what’s become an annual return to KU is “a huge deal” for him, an opportunity to show love back to the Jayhawk community.
Count Harris among those excited for the Miles era.
“I love it. I love the energy that he has,” Harris said. “The players love him so far, just talking to those guys. He’s proven. He’s a proven champion. To have that knowledge and experience here is huge. ...
“I mean, he knows what to do. He knows the ins and outs of the college football game. He’s won at the highest level. To be able to have a guy to lead this program like that, him and (athletic director) Jeff Long, a great partnership. I’m excited for the future, for sure.”
That future may still be a distant one for a program that on Saturday took only the first public step in what is sure to be a long trek out of college football’s abyss — in the nine years since Reesing threw his final pass in crimson and blue, KU has gone a combined 18-90.
“(It’s) excitement, first and foremost, to have someone that’s done what he’s done, won a national championship, sent a lot of guys to the NFL, built a great program,” Reesing said of Miles, “to come in and help us turn this thing around.”