Package deal: Free State seniors sign to play football at Kansas State

Free State seniors Jax Dineen (left) and Keenan Garber (right) at their signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon at FSHS. Both players plan to play collegiate football at Kansas State.

Free State senior Jax Dineen didn’t make his decision until 90 minutes before his signing ceremony.

After wrestling with his collegiate choice for the past two weeks, Dineen spent all of Wednesday morning trying to nail down his plans. In the end, Dineen decided to sign his national letter of intent to play football at Kansas State University.

Dineen, who has two older brothers — Joe and Jay — that played for Kansas this past season, called up his family when he finally made his decision. Jax Dineen then realized he didn’t have any Wildcat gear, so he rushed to purchase a K-State jacket, shirt and hat for his ceremony.

“I bought some stuff, and was like, ‘You know what? I’m proud,'” Dineen said. “I’ve never went against K-State. I cheered for KU over them, but I love the way they do things. I think their program fit me the best, and I’m happy.”

But what made Dineen’s signing ceremony more special was the fact he got to do so with his lifelong friend Keenan Garber, who inked his letter of intent to the Wildcats, as well.

The Free State duo has talked about the possibility of playing at the same college since they began playing football.

“We have wanted that package deal since we were babies,” said Dineen, who is a three-start fullback via Rivals. “That was a huge factor. If we were together and happy at a place, we were going to make it.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Free State’s Jax Dineen (33) leaves defenders behind him as he picks up yardage in a 6A sub-state game against Haysville-Campus Friday night at FSHS.

Garber, who is a three-star receiver per Rivals, has known Manhattan was his destination for quite some time.

Kansas State was the first school to show interest in Garber, an interest that started back in his sophomore season. He received an official offer last May before announcing his verbal commitment in early June.

As a senior, Garber scored 20 offensive touchdowns on 46 total touches. He also made multiple plays as a defensive back, earning several postseason accolades for his performance on both sides of the ball.

When both KU and K-State dealt with coaching changes in the offseason, Garber spoke with members from both of the new coaching staffs. But Chris Klieman, the new head coach for the Wildcats, reached out to Garber the day he took over the program.

“He called me and Jax the first day, and I respect him for that,” Garber said. “I just wanted to see what they had to bring. It is a whole new program, I just wanted to be a part of something special and something new.”

Free State junior receiver Keenan Garber slips past a Lawrence High defender during the City Showdown on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 at LHS.

Once he knew he was staying with the Wildcats, Garber talked with Dineen on a daily basis to help his fellow Firebird throughout the process.

The tandem showed what they are capable of, helping lead Free State to consecutive 10-win seasons in each of the last two years. Over that span, the Firebirds netted a pair of Sunflower League titles, as well.

“Ever since we started playing football, we knew we had a gift,” Garber said. “That was the plan, to go to the same school together.”

Dineen, who played both running back and linebacker for FSHS, was recruited by Klieman when he was the head coach at North Dakota State. Dineen, Free State’s all-time leading rusher, enjoyed the way Klieman used a fullback in his offense.

Still, it was a tough choice for Dineen given his family ties to the Jayhawks. Both of his parents are KU grads. His grandfather played running back for KU in the 1960s. Joe Dineen just finished off a stellar career at Kansas, while Jay Dineen will be a sophomore linebacker in 2019.

In the end, though, Kansas State was an opportunity that Jax Dineen couldn’t pass up.

“The past couple of weeks has been me and my family talking about what is best for me,” Dineen said. “My family is really proud of me, and I’m happy with this decision.”


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