MANHATTAN, KS. (KSNT) – K-State football was blessed with a veteran wide receiver group in 2022, but the Wildcats needed someone to fill those leadership roles when Malik Knowles and Kade Warner graduated.

Head coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday sophomore wideout RJ Garcia has taken the positional group under his wings in this early part of this season.

Garcia, most notably known for a touchdown catch in the Big 12 championship game, only has seven career catches. That hasn’t kept him from managing the other pass-catchers.

“Really appreciate RJ being an exceptional leader in that room, too, losing guys like Malik and Kade,” Klieman said. “Somebody else had to step up to help [senior wide receiver Phillip Brooks]. RJ’s been a tremendous leader over there.”

Garcia received the “committed” team core value award the week of July 19. K-State hands out weekly awards to players who stand out at practice. Garcia wears a “prizefighter” patch on his jersey.

Outside of the leadership, Klieman sees Garcia being a contributor in the fall.

“One of the guys that have made a ton of plays in the first six days is RJ Garcia,” Klieman said. “You guys saw sparks of that last year behind some of those older guys, but RJ’s learned what we’re doing. The game has slowed down.”

K-State kicks off the 2023-24 season at home against Southeast Missouri State on September 2.