Imagine signing with Kansas just prior to 2007. Mark Mangino had the Jayhawks moving in the right direction, he had taken the team to two bowl games and had just been to a Fort Worth Bowl and then reached bowl eligibility the following year only to be passed over. Either way it was most likely an opportunity to play Big 12 football for a team that looked competitive and had a chance to play in a few bowl games along the way.
These were the years where the current Jayhawks seniors were recruited. Sal Capra, Bradley Dedeaux, Dakota Lewis, Olaitan Oguntodu, Tetravian Ingram and Phillip Strozier made up part of the 2006 class. Drew Dudley, Chris Harris, Jake Laptad, Justin Springer and Johnathan Wilson a portion of the 2007 class. A splattering of transfers and walk ons make up the remainder of the senior class including Alonso Rojas, Jacob Branstetter, Brad Thorson, Calvin Rubles and of course the old man of the group Angus Quigley.
Regardless of when or the circumstances of their arrival, none probably would have predicted what would take place during their time at Kansas. Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks caught lightning in a bottle in 2007 going 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win and took a team showing gradual improvement straight to the penthouse suite. The following year the Jayhawks experienced an expected dropoff, but still managed an Insight Bowl invitation and an 8 win season.
Expectations had gone through the roof at Kansas, most likely a little too far through the roof. The group that had come to campus as relatively unheralded recruits were experiencing a level of success never before seen at the University. The fan support was tremendous, the administration was upgrading the program facilities to a level of competitiveness and Jayhawk football seemed to be doing all the right things.
That's what makes this senior day, much like last years, a little bit of a mixed bag. Kansas has since fallen off a cliff of sorts. A coaching scandal, losses piling up faster than wins and a return to a time most had hoped to forget.
The thing about football is it's one of the most difficult games to play. Mentally you beat yourself, your body and your mind up for 6 days, in order to play 60 minutes. You spend a nine month offseason working harder than any college student can probably imagine, in order to play a 12 game schedule from September to November. It's not easy and no one does all that with the intention or hopes of losing.
As the senior class at Kansas steps onto the field in Lawrence for the final time on Saturday it will bring to a close a career that saw some of the best in Lawrence just a few years ago, and a career that now plays a role in a transition that hasn't been pretty.
Either way these are a group of seniors that have given four, five and in some cases six years to the Jayhawk uniform. They've been rewarded with a free education and sometimes assumed a thankless role. Saturday will be their sendoff in Lawrence. A Senior day to reflect on expectations exceeded and those that were failed to be met.
At the end of the day the senior class deserves a fitting sendoff. A sendoff that celebrates the very good times they were a part of and a sendoff that hopefully signals the beginning of a brighter future in Kansas football.