Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Switching sides fine for Running

KU aide played receiver for Kansas State

October 23, 2003

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In 1995, Mitch Running caught a 22-yard touchdown pass that helped No. 14 Kansas State pull off a 41-7 victory over No. 6 Kansas University in Manhattan.

The Sunflower Showdown that the former KSU receiver remembers, however, was a 31-7 loss three years earlier in Lawrence.

"That will be etched in my mind forever," said Running, in his first year as a graduate assistant on KU's coaching staff. "That was the worst game I've ever been involved with."

K-State coach Bill Snyder made sure his players remembered that debacle. Three years later, KSU coaches posted reminders of the 1992 game all over the football offices and locker room.

"Coach Snyder was a guy who wouldn't let us forget about that game," Running said. "You couldn't look anywhere in the complex without seeing a sign that said '31-7.'"

Running ranks fourth all-time at Kansas State with 133 receptions for 1,821 yards -- not bad for an Iowan who joined a rebuilding program as a walk-on.

After college, Running spent two years on NFL practice squads with the Houston Oilers and Carolina Panthers before being cut by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. He then spent 21/2 seasons in the CFL with Winnipeg and Toronto before injuries ended his career.

Out of options as a football player, Running pursued another dream -- flying. He joined the Marines and went to flight school, but a compressed vertebrae led to a medical discharge after only 31/2 weeks.

So Running turned back to football.

"To me there's nothing better than Saturday afternoon college football games," he said. "In the pros, it loses something. Guys do it as a business, and it's all about money."

Not for graduate assistants. GAs like Running gain invaluable experience, but they make enough money to cover graduate-school tuition, rent and little else.

The work isn't glamorous. Running puts together scouting reports during the week. On game day, he communicates with coaches in the press box from the sideline and makes sure the right players get on the field in the right formation.

Graduate-assistant jobs can launch careers. KU coach Mark Mangino was a GA for Snyder at K-State before working his way up to assistant head coach. That led to a similar position at Oklahoma before landing the head-coaching job at Kansas.

Running, 31, started looking for a coaching job after his discharge, and it didn't take long.

"One thing about Kansas State, there are a lot of guys out there that are coaches," he said. "I heard it through the grapevine that coach wanted guys for his staff from Kansas State or Oklahoma who had been through rebuilding and knew what it was like."

Running will work two years as a GA while pursuing a master's in sports management.

It won't bother him at all that his diploma will be from KU, though his K-State friends might complain.

"I got a few e-mails, but that's too be expected," he said. "After the initial ribbing, a lot of them were just glad I was back in the area."

Running will be back in Manhattan Saturday at KSU Stadium. This time, he'll have a different perspective.

"I've only been back for a few games," he said. "It'll be different on that sideline."


  • Where's the band?: KU had recorded crowd noise -- including K-State's fight song -- blasted over a loudspeaker during Wednesday's practice.

"That's a routine thing we do for road games," Mangino said. "We do it on Thursdays, sometimes Wednesdays and Thursdays."

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