A coaching change at Kansas State led to a change of plans for Ben Driver.
The Salina Central senior was prepared for a life without football. Driver, a three-sport athlete for the Mustangs, was planning to attend K-State and focus on his studies for the next four years.
“I’ve grown up watching Kansas State and I’m a big fan,” Driver said. “But I didn’t have plans to play football in college.”
That changed recently after Driver had a visit from Kansas State assistant coach Joe Klanderman, now the safeties coach for the Wildcats under new head coach Chris Klieman.
“After visiting with coach Klanderman, he went back and showed my film to coach Klieman,” Driver said. “They called me that night and offered me a preferred walk-on.
“I was just going to go to K-State and major in biology. Now I can do that and play football. It’s amazing.”
After receiving the offer, Driver still wanted to take some time to consider his future and made an official visit to Manhattan the following week.
“I thought about it for awhile and went up the Saturday after they offered for a visit,” Driver said. “That’s kind of when I made my decision. The facilities and coaching staff are amazing so that helped a lot.”
Driver’s commitment to Kansas State does not include scholarship money, though there is the potential for earning a scholarship at a later date if the walk-on athlete becomes a productive member of the program.
The list of Kansas State walk-ons that have later earned all-Big 12 recognition is lengthy and includes Jordy Nelson, Jon McGraw and Marcus Watts, and more recently B.J. Finney and Will Geary.
“There have been a bunch of guys that have gotten up there and contributed after being a walk-on,” Driver said. “I think I have a good chance.
“I will be reporting in early June and they expect me to be there the same time as all the scholarship guys. Everything is the same except they are not offering any money.”
Driver missed his entire junior season after suffering a broken jaw in the summer of 2017, but made a large number of contributions in his final season with the Mustangs. He led the team in tackles at strong safety and also had six interceptions, earning first team all-league and Class 5A all-state honors for his play on defense.
Driver also led Central in receiving yards and had nearly 500 yards in kickoff and punt returns, garnering first team all-league on special teams and second team on offense.
At Kansas State he hopes to work under Klanderman as part of the Wildcats secondary, but also would like to get some early playing time on special teams.
His biology major and pre-med route will be time consuming and challenging for Ben, the son of Stacy Clark and Kenton Driver, but giving up his playing days in basketball and baseball will help ease the load.
“It would have been a big change, going from high school and competing every season to just playing intramurals at Kansas State,” Driver said. “My classes will be hard and I have to balance all my labs, but it’s just amazing to have this opportunity.
“I didn’t expect it but I’m ready for it.”