One Last Ride

by Kwamie Lassiter II

There’s going to be a lot of lasts this season: the last time I put on the Jayhawks uniform, the last time I wear the big blue helmet, the last time I play at Memorial Stadium, and the last time I share the field with my brothers on this team.

If this is the end of the road, then I want to be sure to make as much noise as possible on my way out.

We have a new coaching staff, and the players are responding better. This is the most disciplined I’ve ever seen this team. It’s one thing to hear about the change from afar and something else entirely to see it up, close and personal.

I see it every single day at practice. There’s a big improvement in a lot of players this year.

Words can’t even describe how excited I am for Week 1 to get here. My brother and my dad were both Jayhawks. So there’s always been a sense of pride whenever I step out onto that football field wearing that jersey.

Man, few things on this planet compare to that feeling.

And few things ever will.

From the living room to Memorial Stadium

Even as a senior, I still have those pinch-me moments, you know?

Those types of moments where you just stop and think — man, I’m really here.

When I tell you I was born into this game, I really mean it. My dad played at the Division I level and in the NFL. So I grew up in one of those households with a football in every single room.

My brothers and I always played carpet football growing up. Never heard of it? Imagine playing football on your knees. It was a blast, man!

Today, every time I step out of a tunnel, I think about those moments as a kid. Seriously! Those are the moments that paved the way to my journey to KU—just that genuine love for the sport.

I didn’t have a ton of big offers from colleges coming out of high school, but there was an opportunity to come to Lawrence and walk-on here.

It was just one of those situations where I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps, and I was willing to do whatever it took.

Yes, I knew I was undersized, and I also knew it would take a lot of work just for me to make the team. I knew all about the journey ahead. But I also knew my own heart and work ethic.

I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Positive change

Honestly, those are the moments I’ll miss the most—you know, the opportunity to just pause and take in the scenery. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to take my COVID year and come back for another season.

Just being out there and sharing the field with the fellas for one last time—you don’t get these opportunities often.

But it’s also a chance for me to develop my body some more and perfect my craft. The end goal for me is to play at the next level, and I need to have as good of a season as possible to achieve it.

That’s why I was a bit unsure at first when the coaching change was announced. There were some sleepless nights—whew, believe me. It just hit me different because of the timing, you know? This is my last semester here, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

And then I spoke with Coach Lance Leipold for the very first time.

His overall goals and mindset for what he sees this team becoming felt like something I wanted to be a part of after just one conversation. He could see the change we wanted, and he was willing to get in the trenches with us and help make it a reality.

Just that whole mentality from a head coach was the most important thing to me. And it wasn’t just talk, either. I can honestly say I’m more ready now for this season than I’ve ever been.

It’s a different feeling this time around.

Time to make some noise

The sky is the limit if we put in the work.

Obviously, we want to go to Bowl games and all of that, but we have to do the little things right first. We have to stay disciplined and make plays when they come to us. We have to be professionals on the field by catching passes, avoiding penalties, and not turning the ball over.

Football is a sport that can bring you to the highest of highs or lowest of lows. I remember being a sophomore and dropping a wide-open touchdown pass at Kansas State in a game we went on to lose 21-17.

As an athlete, that’s something you never forget.

It was the worst feeling ever, and it shouldn’t have happened. Just holding us all accountable and helping us hone in on those finer details is one thing Coach Leipold tries to impress on us on a daily basis.

That moment didn’t just stick with me. It humbled and motivated me like never before. I’ve been working twice as hard at my craft. I haven’t dropped a single touchdown pass in a game since that incident.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t even really dropped a catch.

That’s the confidence I plan on carrying with me into Friday’s home opener against South Dakota. It’s the standard we’re all working hard to set in our first season with Coach Leipold leading the program. This is a new era for KU, and I’m just glad to have an opportunity to be along for the ride.

The time is almost here, KU fans.

I’ll see you at Memorial Stadium!