AP NEWS

‘Big-play Schoen’ to embrace larger role with Wildcats

April 19, 2018

Even for Dalton Schoen, it’s sometimes hard to fathom how far he has come in one year.

Around this time last year, Schoen was focused on competing merely to travel with the Kansas State football team. But after breaking out last fall, Schoen enters the 2018 campaign as one of the primary options in the Wildcats’ passing attack.

“It’s a lot different,” Schoen said. “I was just thinking about this the other day: that last year I was fighting to get on the travel squad. Coming back now, I’ve been on the field and had the opportunity to play. People do know me now, so I have to bring a little more.”

Schoen made the most of his opportunity when given the chance last season, and he has every intention on building off it this fall.

As a walk-on sophomore, Schoen played in 10 games and made three starts before an injury cut his season short. He hauled in 23 receptions for 470 yards with three touchdowns, finishing with the 11th-best mark in the nation at 20.43 yards per reception.

Schoen stormed on to the scene with an 128-yard performance at Texas, the fourth-most yards by an underclassman in school history. It was an impressive feat, especially given he was not far removed from questioning whether he’d be able to suit up for road games.

Yet, according to his teammates, it was evident Schoen had the ability to do it all along.

“Dalton Schoen is a straight baller,” quarterback Alex Delton said. “He’s a guy who, I could call him up any time of the night, I could hit him up any time, and he’s the guy who’s going to watch film with me. (Or), ‘Hey, let’s get some extra core in’ or something. He’s that guy, man. He’s reliable. I can count on him with everything, and it shows.”

Schoen, who is now on scholarship, is one of two returning receivers with at least 20 receptions from the previous year, as the unit was depleted by Byron Pringle’s decision to leave early for the NFL.

Last season, K-State averaged 173.8 yards per game through the air, which was ranked last among Big 12 teams. Schoen, however, was one of the few bright spots with his ability to stretch the field and bust out big plays.

Schoen’s 82-yard touchdown reception was the ninth-longest pass play in school history. He tallied a 70-yard reception against Central Arkansas for his first career catch, which was the longest first-career snag by a Wildcat since 2001.

It’s an ability that Schoen has continued to demonstrate this spring, and it has warranted a fitting nickname.

“We call him ‘Big-play Schoen’ on the practice field, because he seems to always make big plays,” cornerback Duke Shelley said. “He’s a very smart receiver. He knows how to get open and use his leverage against you. He’s a great competitor. Me and him go at it almost every day.”

This time around, Schoen has worked on getting out of his breaks quicker to get more separation from opposing defensive backs. He’s made small adjustments to getting off the line of scrimmage with more quickness as well, while also fine-tuning some of his technique.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Schoen can shoulder a larger role and help improve the team’s aerial threat.

But Schoen doesn’t have to look far for personal motivation.

Just one month ago, he watched a pair of former teammates display their own talents on the biggest stage. Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson, who both played high school basketball with Schoen at Blue Valley Northwest, paced Loyola-Chicago to a historic Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament.

“It was really cool to see,” Schoen said. “It was inspiring to see them go out and do that on a national scale. For them to play K-State, it put me in an interesting situation. Here’s these two kids that I played with in high school, and now they are playing against my brother. It was definitely a cool experience.”

In the end, Schoen’s rooting interest remained with K-State during the the team’s loss in the Elite Eight.

“I was still rooting for the Cats,” Schoen said. “Couldn’t go against my purple.”