It's a question fans of teams inevitably get around to asking sports writers: Who's the nicest athlete on the team?
First, you qualify your answer by informing the person asking that many schools, Kansas University included, limit the access to football and basketball players by closing locker rooms to the media, so it's not as if you get to know them to any great extent. Then you answer.
When it was put to me about a month ago, the answer was Marcus Herford, the sophomore wide receiver from DeSoto, Texas.
Herford contributed to Saturday's 36-35 collapse of a loss at Baylor in myriad ways, overthrowing a touchdown on a wide receiver reverse, and dropping a touchdown perfectly placed in his hands by Adam Barmann.
If Herford were not among the players who attended the Tuesday news conference at Hadl Auditorium, nobody would have noted that, and his mistakes wouldn't have been written about as prominently. The way it works is reporters request athletes, and they decide whether to show up, or in some cases, the decision is made by the coaching staff that they will not show up. That goes for postgame requests made in the fourth quarter, too.
For example, quarterback Kerry Meier has been made available to the media just once since injuring his shoulder during the loss at Toledo.
Anyway, Herford's presence was requested Tuesday, and he obliged.
Asked which was tougher to take, his overthrow or his drop, Herford said: "The reception really did hurt because I feel like we probably could have put the nail in them. We were up 35-17 and we would have been up 42-17."
Earlier, Herford badly overthrew a wide-open Brian Murph in the end zone. Murph focused on the football and ran way out of the end zone to catch it, ran so far he rammed right into the left of two platform stages and disappeared between the two.
2006 October 24 Football Press Conference
"I apologized several times," Herford said. "He let me hear a lot about that. We had some fun with that. It was my fault tremendously."
Murph has a reputation for being the team's funniest player. What was the funniest thing he said to Herford when giving him a hard time? Herford thought, fought back a smile, and said he couldn't remember. Translation: Just because it was funny doesn't mean it was printable.
There wasn't as much joking about the crucial drop, Herford's Leo Bookman moment, or was there?
"There was a little bit," Herford said. "Some of the guys got on me, but it was in a joking manner because they know I can make that play. I make it all the time in practice and other games. It just so happened I kind of choked. I don't know what happened. No excuse. I dropped the ball. And there are a lot of guys still on my side, coaches as well, pushing me to get better."
Herford has the speed, but does he have the hands?
"I know I have good hands," he said. "They wouldn't move me to the wide receiver position if they didn't think I could catch the ball. It was just a mental lapse."
It remains to be seen how reliable a receiver Herford will become. This much we know: He's a stand-up guy. Here's guessing he will make the company that hires him when he graduates look good for doing so.