Hoover, the next Jordy Nelson; why can't he be?
One thing about Kansas State University's football program, it's the love for walk-ons. It's a reputation Bill Snyder took pride in for decades as a head coach, building his program through walk-ons and JUCO transfers. McPherson's Gabe Hoover has the chance to continue the tradition but with first-year Head Coach Chris Klieman.
It might be a reach for some people who are die-hard Wildcat fans but think about recently retired NFL receiver Jordy Nelson. Now to be clear, Hoover might be as athletically gifted than Nelson was when he walked on out of Riley County, however, his production level outweighed his skill sets when he finally got his name called in his junior year after his transition from safety to wide receiver.
Being a walk-on gets Hoover into the program, but he now has to pay his way through blood, sweat and money before earning his first scholarship, which could happen at anytime in his four years of eligibility.
It wouldn't be the first time Hoover had to start from the ground, and up. Quite frankly that's what he did all four years as a Bullpup, making McPherson a football powerhouse for two straight seasons. In his last year, he led the Bullpups with 76 catches for 1,315 yards and 20 touchdowns as he had the best single-season receiving performance in McPherson history. The Bullpups went to the state semifinals in back-to-back years while Hoover was the starting receiver and backup quarterback.
"K-State is getting one of the best receivers in McPherson football history," McPherson's Head Coach Jace Pavlovich said. "Gabe will continue to work hard to make himself into a big-time Division-1 athlete. I look forward to watching him on Saturdays in the future."
Hoover, despite not being on scholarship, already has somewhat of an advantage as a preferred walk-on, meaning he is guaranteed a roster spot for this season. If he sticks around for the 2020, he will have highly recruited defensive end, Cody Stufflebean as his future teammate once again after committing to K-State earlier this summer.
Coincidently, Klieman announced that he dismissed Hunter Rison before the start of the 2019 season after his arrest on Apr. 19. Before that, the Wildcats lost Isaiah Zuber to the transfer portal and chose to play at Mississippi State. The Wildcats' lone returning starter is Dalton Schoen, who recorded 32 catches for 520 yards and two touchdowns last year. Outside of him, who will Skylar Thompson throw to throw to? It's not like he has Alex Barnes in the backfield to carry the load when needed. The rest of the receiving corp is filled with redshirt freshmen and sophomores with limited experience. The competition is wide open, even for Hoover.
Regardless of what happens, Hoover, who grew up a Wildcat fan, gets to say that he represented the purple and grey as a student-athlete. Not many people can say that or even had the courage to tryout. He plans on majoring in mechanical engineering with the fascination of how things function after last spoken to him. The odds may be against his favor, but because of his work ethic and his will to continue playing football at the highest level, Hoover is in a good space and could be a walk-on worth gambling.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports