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How a freshman surprisingly emerged as one of Kansas State’s top wide receivers

The Kansas State football team did something completely unexpected with its depth chart this week.

It listed Jayce Brown as a starting wide receiver.

Brown is the opposite of a household name for many K-State fans. He is a 5-foot-11 freshman from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, who received little fanfare when he signed with the Wildcats. Not only that, it looked like he wasn’t going to make much of an impact this season when he caught a grand total of two passes in his first six games.

So little was known about Brown that when he delivered a breakout performance of four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown against TCU over the weekend, some of his stats were incorrectly credited to cornerback Keenan Garber, who wears the same number (1) as Brown on defense.

But K-State football coach Chris Klieman wasn’t confused by what he saw. The Wildcats have been average, at best, at wide receiver this season. Brown provided a major spark to the offense by grabbing a 43-yard pass, hauling in some nice back-shoulder throws and also securing a touchdown.

He might be the best wide receiver on the entire team. The Wildcats are eager to see what he does next.

“He’s doing a really good job,” K-State quarterback Will Howard said. “Jayce is a guy that came in and made an impact immediately. Being a true freshman, it’s hard to go out there and understand everything that’s going on, especially in the type of offense that we have. So credit to him for learning as fast as he did and for getting the confidence to go out there and do what he did. Because that’s been a long time coming. That kid is special and he’s going to be special for a while.”

It is incredibly rare for K-State to lean on a freshman at wide receiver. Tyler Lockett might have been the last one to secure a recurring spot in the starting lineup.

That alone shows the kind of potential that Brown brings to the field.

“Credit to him,” K-State quarterback Avery Johnson said. “He’s putting in all the work. That dude can really take the top off a defense, and he’s confident in himself. When you go out there and play free and with confidence like he is, it’s hard to be stopped.”

How did Brown put himself in this position?

He points to his work ethic. When he arrived on campus for spring practice, he routinely stayed after workouts to practice throwing with the K-State quarterbacks. He build a strong relationship with both Howard and Johnson during that time.

All the while, he used playing time as a motivating factor.

“I had it in my mind that I was going to play as a true freshman,” Brown said. “That was my mindset every day, and I’m glad that I worked towards it and I got it.”

Inserting Brown into the starting lineup could be compared to a NFL team picking up a talented wide receiver off the waiver wire in the middle of the season.

K-State was struggling to throw the ball downfield because of a mixture of injuries and inconsistent play from their older receivers. Now a new playmaker is entering the fold.

“He has done a lot of the things during practices that you guys saw on Saturday,” Klieman said, “being able to stretch the field vertically, being able to break away in man coverage in the back of the end zone like he did on the one throw that Will had to him. He’s playing faster. That’s something that it takes a little while sometimes for freshmen, so we’re excited about where he’s at right now.”