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August 20, 2014

Nick Harwell

Ben Heeney

Cassius Sendish

Charlie Weis

CHARLIE WEIS:  On Monday of this week, I had the team‑‑ we had a 9:00 team meeting where I had the team vote for captains, and it was interesting in the eyes of the team.  There were like three tiers of players when it came to votes.  I mean, the top tier clearly, not close by a mile, were these three young men sitting to my left, Ben Heeney, Cassius Sendish on defense, and Nick Harwell on offense.  There really wasn't much of a competition with everyone else as far as in the eyes of our players who they perceived to be the leaders.
In addition to that, there were three other guys that were clearly in between these three guys and the rest of the team, so what we've decided to do is add them as part of our leadership committee, so they'll be members of our leadership committee.  The offensive line will be represented by Pat Lewandowski, the defensive line will be represented by Keon Stowers, and all the non‑seniors especially, but everyone else will be represented by Montell Cozart.  Those three guys were the guys that got the votes that weren't close to everyone else.
Some years I've had as many as nine to ten guys, but there weren't nine or ten guys that got as much consideration by their teammates.
So with no further ado, I'm going to turn over the question and answers, okay, to our three captains because today it's about them, it's not about me, and let you get to know them a little bit better.  Obviously they'll be available to the media on a weekly basis that Katy and I will end up working out, so I think that with no further ado, I'm going to dismiss myself and let you talk to them.

Q.  How does it feel to have your teammates trust you as a team captain?
NICK HARWELL:  I'm really honored to be a team captain.  I've only been here for a year, and it feels good to know that your teammates look up to you.  They took me in, and I'm going to do the best for my team.

Q.  Ben, coaches and players have referred to Cassius as a natural leader.  If you agree with that, what are the qualities he has?
BEN HEENEY:  Yeah, I definitely agree with that.  Ever since Cassius got here, he's a JuCo guy, he's been in the program this is going to be his second year, but since he's been here, he was a guy that if we have to work out at 6:00 a.m., in the morning he's in the weight room already at 5:00.  He's in there punching the punching bag or just messing around, talking with Holsopple, he's always the first guy in and last guy out and that stuff, so he's made an impact from the get‑go, since he's been here.

Q.  Cassius, you've been all in since before you got here, been to Dallas twice to represent this team, leadership committee last year, top of the mountain now as the team captain.  Does it feel like the right progression?
CASSIUS SENDISH:  Yeah, I'm just honored even to be in this situation and to be put in this position for my team and to represent the team as a whole.  I mean, it's a great feeling knowing that you can come into a program and do something like that.  I'm just trying to set an example for those who come in the future.

Q.  Nick, when two key players go down on the offense, the natural thing would be to aim ahead and feel bad for them personally and think about how it hurts the football team.  How do you move on from that?  How do you get your guys to move on?
NICK HARWELL:  Well, we've prepared for the worst.  When somebody goes down it hurts the whole team, especially the individual that goes down, but we all compete and work hard, and we feel that the guys to fill in their spots have put in the work and are already playing very confident now.

Q.  Nick, have you been a captain before?
NICK HARWELL:  No, sir, this is my first year.

Q.  How about you?
CASSIUS SENDISH:  I've been a captain on my high school team and JuCo, but not here, this is the first time.

Q.  This is two times; does that add anything to yours, Ben?
BEN HEENEY:  You know, I'm just really proud that my teammates view me as a leader on the team, and I'm just going to do everything I possibly can just to represent them and just to be the best leader and captain that I can be for those guys.

Q.  Ben, as the one guy sitting up there who has been around the last few years, what feels different heading into this season compared to past years?
BEN HEENEY:  I would say one of the big things is the leadership that especially us three guys and the leadership committee and just a bunch of the other seniors have really instilled throughout the whole summer and carried into camp.  This camp seems a lot different than past ones, just because of competition through all the positions.  I feel like we have more depth at every position, and it just feels like we're as a whole just a better team than it has in the past.  I don't know how else to explain it.

Q.  Ben, it's been about 50 years or so at least since two‑way football players played.  You're plenty exhausted playing linebacker, but playing at safety and running back, you're pretty good at that.  Have you played both ways before?
BEN HEENEY:  Yeah, I love to play both ways, to bring the old Hutchison running back days back.  Yeah, that would be awesome.  I always thought I was going to play running back in college instead of defense, so if they need me, I'm on call.

Q.  Ben, these guys, Nick was talking about all last year about teammates and coaches as a leader and obviously Cassius the same thing in their own right.  Is there anything that you're going to have to tell them about actually representing the team as, quote‑unquote, captain?
BEN HEENEY:  You know, I think that they both have been doing that since they've been here, regardless if they had the title of captain last year or not.  Like I said about Cassius, he came in, hard worker from day one, same thing with Nick, and both of these guys, neither of them held anything back.  They've been vocal since they've been here, regardless if Cassius is a new guy, Nick, a guy that couldn't play last year, but he was stillwith those guys that Holsopple has to work out with on Fridays and stuff, like the red‑shirt guys and stuff.  Nick was always the leader of those guys and pushing those guys further than anyone else could.
I feel like both of them have been captains the whole summer, and the team obviously recognized that.

Q.  To have Brandon (Bourbon) go down one day and the next day you see Taylor (Cox) go down, at that moment did you realize how serious the injuries were, and was there a little bit of a state of shock around the locker room?
BEN HEENEY:  Yeah, definitely.  Those are two of my best friends on the team.  Brandon, he's my roommate, and Taylor, they're both like brothers to all of us.  Just to see the hard work that they've put in, they're both fifth‑year senior guys, James Sims has been the guy around here for four years, and for them both to kind of be the ones that are going to carry the load this year, and then both of them having heartbreaking injuries like that, obviously it hurts the whole team and it hurts them even more so than the team.
But you know, the two guys that we have, Corey (Avery) and De'Andre (Mann), they both had amazing camps.
It sucks for Brandon, Taylor, and it sucks for us as a team that we lost two guys like that, hard‑working guys and stuff like that, but De'Andre and Corey are both exceptional players, and they're going to do very good.

Q.  Nick, have you talked to those guys yet maybe individually in terms of, hey, this is your time now and this is what you need to do to be ready or maybe even Joe?
NICK HARWELL:  I haven't spoken with the new running backs coming in that are here, but there will come a point where I sit down and talk to them.  I've had small conversations with Corey.  He's a freshman coming in, and the two running backs, that you've got to grow up, you're not a freshman anymore.  I've had small conversations, but I haven't had an in‑depth conversation with them yet.

Q.  For Ben and Cassius, you've worked with Joe over the last couple weeks.  Is he the kind of guy that can make a natural transition to running back?
CASSIUS SENDISH:  I would say the one thing that stuck out about Joe to me is that he's very coachable, and he's one who's going to take whatever Coach asks him to do and put all of his effort, everything he can and put it all into it.  I don't think the transition from playing defensive back to running back for Joe will be bumpy at all.

Q.  Nick, how has Tony Pierson progressed as a receiver since the time you've been here?
NICK HARWELL:  Well, when he first moved to receiver he was kind of rusty, he was still in a running back mindset.  But since he's been playing receiver with me, I've seen him like grow from this running back to an actual receiver.  He even pushes me and teaches me things when we're out on the field.  The biggest thing is competing.  He competes with everything he does.  He just shows me how to compete even more than what I have been doing.

Q.  And how does the new wide receivers coach‑‑ you're a veteran that's been around and learned from a lot of different guys.  Have you learned anything from him?
NICK HARWELL:  Oh, yeah, (coach) Kiesau has taught me ‑‑ he's referred me back to the fundamentals, but he's taught me a lot of things that I haven't been taught throughout playing receiver, and he's a really positive guy.  I feel like the thing he's brought to the receiving room, well, to me, is to be like most positive and just come in and have a great attitude with whatever you're doing.  He always gets something positive out of that.

Q.  Nick, I know you caught a lot of balls at Miami.  Did you run the ball much or any kind of trick plays?  Are you kind of a guy that was used in a different role than just wide receiver?
NICK HARWELL:  I have run a few reverses, some successful, some not so successful.  They had me doing a lot of different stuff, but mostly catching balls; that's what I do.

Q.  You didn't volunteer for that right away?
NICK HARWELL:  No, I volunteered for a lot of stuff.  They put me back‑‑ I asked to be a quarterback, I asked to be a running back, but they're like, no, we're just going to have you catch the ball.  I'll do whatever they want me to do.

Q.  Do you think you'd be a good quarterback?
NICK HARWELL:  I'd be all right.  No, I'd probably drop back and take off by myself.  There would be like four receivers open and I'd still just run the ball.

Q.  Ben, this whole thing, your evolution from when you got here, special teams that first year to now two‑time team captain, leader of the defense, face of the defense, all that stuff, you probably couldn't have imagined this was in your future at all.
BEN HEENEY:  Yeah, definitely.  I don't think really anyone prepares for anything like this.  I'm sure Cassius coming in, never thought he'd be a captain, and same with Nick.  It's basically his first year ever playing.  He's up here as a captain.  I don't think it's really‑‑ I don't think really anyone ever has it in the plans, but it kind of just works out that way.  If you just work hard and bring your best to the table every day, I think your peers see that.  Obviously they voted us as captains, so I guess it paid off.

Q.  This is the third year in a row that a guy has been voted for team captain who hasn't played a game for Kansas.  Can you talk about what that means?  Obviously it's very respectful, but that's pretty wild.
BEN HEENEY:  Yeah, I hadn't thought about that.  I think it's different with Nick, though, because like I said, he's a guy that couldn't play last year, but he was still one of the most vocal guys on our team, one of the biggest leaders on our team, and just coming from a different team like Miami and then coming here to a brand‑new team, brand‑new school and everything like that and just being the leader that he's been, it shows a lot about his character.
I just think it's different with Nick than it has been with the other two guys.
CASSIUS SENDISH:  From my perspective, the team changes every year, so if the same guys don't emerge as leaders from the past years, then obviously the leadership of the team has changed.  It's something that's ongoing, and it'll probably change next year I'm sure.  I mean, we have three seniors up here, so it is what it is.

Q.  How important is it for you guys not just to have good individual seasons but also for this team to go out there and actually win some games?
BEN HEENEY:  I think that's the most important thing is to win games.  That's been the focus of the whole summer.  We all want to win games.  We're not trying to‑‑ we're not aiming to go 3‑9 or 1‑11 or anything like that.  It's been our mindset to prove everybody wrong, to prove you guys wrong, to prove everyone in the Big 12 wrong, and to prove ourselves right.  We think that we're a great team, and you know, we want to be playing in December.
CASSIUS SENDISH:  From my perspective I don't think anybody sitting up here or anybody that sits in this team meeting room will feel good at night going home looking in the mirror if we were 1‑11 and one of our players just had all the individual accolades.  I don't think anybody would feel good about that.  We want to produce on the field as a team, not only as individuals.

Q.  Has it sunk in yet, for any of you, that this is your senior year and it's 16 days away or whatever it is?
NICK HARWELL:  It's been a long time.  Since my freshman year I've been told it goes by fast, it goes by fast, and I'm just like, man, it's going by slow.  I have 12 games left guaranteed, so try to make it 13.
CASSIUS SENDISH:  For me, I mean, I try to attack every day the same way, whether I was a freshman or a senior or whatever the case may be, so it's not really much of a shock.
BEN HEENEY:  I guess me, like Nick said, seniors, when you come in as a freshman they tell you that exact same thing, it goes by fast.  Man, it does.  I remember just yesterday coming in to KU as a freshman and looking up to guys like Tanner Hawkinson, Toben Opurum and guys like that, and to be the guy that those freshmen are looking up to now, it's crazy just to think about that.

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