Jayhawk Insider: KU Football Seniors; Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk
By: Adam Sullivan
A senior class is often considered the face of the program, the heart and soul of a football team. This was no different for the 2018 Jayhawks as KU celebrated 29 seniors on Friday afternoon inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Among this group is wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. While at KU, Sims has been one of the top receivers in recent memory. The Houston, Texas native finished his Jayhawk career with 2,582 yards on 214 receptions to go along with 19 touchdowns.
In his final season, Sims recorded 53 receptions, tallying 535 yards while scoring four touchdowns. Sims used his time in Lawrence as a learning experience on and off the field.
“I feel like I learned something new here every day,” Sims stated. “I would learn about life, those around me and myself. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and it’s been fun.”
Though the next chapter for Sims is beginning, his time in Lawrence will be something he remembers forever.
“I love KU,” Sims said with a smile. “This place means everything. Those fans love us to death no matter what. The fans that were here (on Friday) have always had our back and I’ll always remember them.”
Leading the offense this season has been quarterback Peyton Bender. The Florida native tossed 1,894 yards this season on 321 attempts for 13 touchdowns while only throwing three interceptions.
Bender played in 21 games for KU over the last two years, finishing his career with over 3,500 yards passing. His efficiency and steady leadership were things that couldn’t be matched. His relationship with David Beaty is something that Bender will miss most about KU.
“It’s really hard to put it into exact words, but that man has done a lot of things for me,” Bender explained. “I’ve built a great relationship with him. He’s been extremely fun to play for. I appreciate everything he has done and all the opportunities he gave me to come here, for having my back and giving it his all. Words can’t describe how much that has meant to me. I’ve had a couple talks with him the last few days and we have a great relationship to keep in touch. I really appreciate everything he has done for me.”
Daniel Wise has been an anchor for the KU defensive line for the last four years. Wise finished his career playing in 47 games tallying 151 tackles, 44 of which were for a loss leaving him second in the KU record book for career tackles for loss.
Wise has been an incredible leader in the locker room at Kansas. Coming from a football family, the Lewisville, Texas native was a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. As a senior, Wise finished his season with 34 tackles and five sacks. He has played a big role helping Kansas become one of the top defenses in turnover margin this season. His football career will likely transition to playing on Sunda’s now, but Saturday football in Lawrence will be something he treasures.
“I appreciate all of the love and support from the fans and everyone around KU,” Wise stated. “The people at KU, I just want to thank you guys one more time from the bottom of my heart. The past four or five years here have been amazing and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t beat Joe (Dineen) out (for the TFL record) but it was a fun battle” Wise said with a smile as he sat next to Dineen. “We had a fun competition and made the competition have a fun spark to it.”
Considered to be one of the top linebackers in the nation, the “Mayor” of Lawrence and captain of the Jayhawks, Joe Dineen Jr. has long been the face of the program. Dineen has been wreaking havoc on Lawrence football fiends since youth league and continued that throughout his career as a Jayhawk.
For Dineen, Saturday was the culmination of possibly the best defensive career in a Jayhawk uniform, done by a Lawrence native who has been loyal to KU since day one.
“There’s a lot of emotion and it hits you really fast,” Dineen said. “Obviously it’s sad and exciting. You look back and it goes by in the blink of an eye. Looking back on it, it was a lot of fun and I made a lot of memories. Playing in front of my hometown over the years has been an amazing experience.”
Dineen will go down in the KU record book with the sixth most tackles in a single season (147), fourth in career tackles with 391 and the top spot in career tackles for loss with 45.5.
With his skill shining in full force on the field, Dineen has also been a leader amongst the community of Lawrence as well. For the second year in a row, Dineen was nominated to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team and named to the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, which honors college football’s top community servant.
“Lawrence and KU have been really good to me,” Dineen stated. “I hope that I reciprocated that on and off the field. I’ve met some great people here, I’m really grateful for my time here. I’ve met some of my lifelong friends here, some guys that will stand with me on my wedding day. I’m just grateful for it all.”
Dineen is in rare company when it comes to three-time captains as he is only the third player in KU’s 128-year history to serve as a captain three-consecutive seasons joining QB Zac Wegner (1998-2000) and linebacker Banks Floodman (2003-05).
In a day which would have been easy to be all about himself, Dineen immediately thought of the underclassmen and program as a whole following Saturday’s game. His message to them was simple.
“Stay together. That’s the big thing,” Dineen explained. “In my career here, coaches do come and go. There’s a lot of change, but the only thing you can control is your effort and your commitment level. My advice for the younger guys is stay committed and stay together, and the sky is the limit.”
What this group of seniors has meant for the program is indescribable. The amount of work, blood, sweat, tears and passion they’ve put into Kansas is unmeasurable. While Bender, Dineen, Sims and Wise along with the other seniors may be beginning their next chapter in life, the Lawrence chapter will never close.
“It’ll be weird being a fan now, but I’m a Jayhawk for life.” Dineen said as he ended his press conference on Saturday.
Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.