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LOGAN -- For senior Kellen Bartlett, a tight end from Blue Springs, Mo., the biggest challenge in his time at Utah State has been his battle with injuries. For the third time in his college career, he is out of play.
During the spring of Bartlett’s junior season, he hurt his foot. Then during the fall of his junior year, just one game after his remarkable 63-yard pass play at Nevada as part of his career-best outing with 121 yards, his season ended with an elbow injury. This time, it is another leg injury with a broken fibula.
“I got rolled into while blocking, just part of the game,” Bartlett said of his most recent injury, which happened during fall camp. “It stinks, but everything happens for a reason, so I’m going to go out there and rehab and get healthy and be as supportive as I can while I’m out.”
Throughout these past three years, Bartlett has remained surprisingly optimistic and positive about the situation.
“It’s just one of those things where you know it’s part of the sport. I’ve played this game my whole life and have really only had the three recent injuries. I just kind of look at it as a little roadblock, speed bump through life. You just get past it,” Bartlett said. “You could look at it and be negative, but everything happens for a reason, and something good is going to come of it.”
Bartlett turns to his faith to get through his trials and tries to make the best of it.
“God has a plan and he’s going to lead me to the promised land. He has something good for me,” Bartlett said. “He isn’t going to give me any challenge that I can’t handle. I know I can handle this and get better from it.”
Bartlett has been awarded a medical redshirt year, meaning he will be back in action with the Aggies next season.
“I can come back stronger, bigger and faster, ready to get more wins with this team,” Bartlett said.
Coming to Utah State from Missouri isn’t a common decision, but for everyone involved in Bartlett coming to USU, it worked out.
His senior year of high school, Bartlett was up for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the best high school defensive player in the greater Kansas and Missouri area. Coach Darrell Dickey, former offensive coordinator at Utah State, was at the awards ceremony. A friend of Bartlett’s knew Dickey and introduced the two.
Dickey had said USU needed a tight end, and Bartlett’s friend thought of him.
“I had sent out tapes to everyone, but those didn’t matter,” Bartlett said. “It was one of those ‘who you know’ sort of things.”
Dickey recruited Bartlett and offered him a scholarship. It was the only Division I offer Bartlett had, but it was good enough.
“I knew I wanted to play at the highest level I could, and Utah State was the best fit for that,” Bartlett said. “It gave me a chance to get out of Missouri and broaden my horizons. It’s a good place and definitely a blessing in disguise. I’ve made so many connections and friends out here. It’s given me a good life, something special.”
Playing Division I football can go a long way for someone’s future. There is a discipline and work ethic that only football players understand.
“I may not have a lot of jobs to put down on a resume, but I can put down that I played Division I football, and that goes a long way,” Bartlett said. “You have to learn to become a hard worker and someone people can depend on. They know I’m someone who gets up at 6 a.m. to go work out or go to practice.”
Football teaches accountability. Players have to learn to manage their time and everything that goes on in that time.
“You have to go to class; that’s a requirement. You have to go to weights. You have to meet a time regimen. This isn’t one of those things where you can just show up and be good,” Bartlett said. “You have to be accountable for yourself both on and off the field. It’s definitely something you have to put work into.”
But is that work worth it? Bartlett thinks so.
“It’s a job, but a game at the same time. It’s a good thing,” Bartlett said. “It’s a killing two birds with one stone type of thing.”
This year’s seniors have played for many different coaches who all have different styles and strategies. None of them will hesitate to agree that head coach Gary Andersen has done wonders for the team. Even though it hasn’t shown significantly in season records, everyone is much happier and actually enjoying themselves.
“It’s what Coach Andersen, coming in and turning this program around, did,” Bartlett said. “You can see it in the players. We do the right things because we want to do the right things and that’s what’s expected of us.”
Overall, being a part of Aggie football builds character and maturity.
“You come in as a boy and you graduate as a man,” Bartlett said. “It’s a special thing.”
With an extra year of eligibility waiting for him, Bartlett is doing everything he can to get there and be ready.
“We’re going to set the standard this year and we’re going to live up to it from here on out. It’s a bold statement, but I believe winning is something that needs to be talked about,” Bartlett said. “It’s time to turn the page from the old Utah State. I’m ready to start a new era here and be a part of that. I’m blessed to get my redshirt and get my fifth year to have another chance.”
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.