Pittsburg State has plenty of traditions that pepper its football program, but there is another tradition that has started to make headway at the university.

Pittsburg State has plenty of traditions that pepper its football program, but there is another tradition that has started to make headway at the university.
Before every home game, the Pittsburg State football team makes its way through the crowd, from the locker rooms in the Weede Physical Education Building to Carnie-Smith Stadium.
It’s a tradition that no other Division II school can claim. And it’s quickly becoming a selling point for PSU football.

Start of the walk
Though he’s 91 years old, Jack Overman can tell you all about the start of the Walk. And he should know. He said he was part of it.
“It started with the Kansas City Club,” Overman said. “You pay a certain amount every year to be a part of their club, and they always eat in a certain shelter in Gorilla Village. Casey Casebolt, a KC Club member, kind of started it years ago. When he saw the players walking by, he got up and started clapping.
“When I joined the club, it became the two of us. I would run up and ring my cowbell. Casey had a clapper, and we’d bring the boys through and wish them a good game. It kind of grew from there.”
Overman notes that the “Gorilla Walk”, as it is known, existed but didn’t become the tradition it is today until President John Darling created Gorilla Village in the 1990s.

Coaches’ thoughts
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said the team has been doing the walk since he started at the school in the late 1980s. For Beck, the walk is a little bit of a tradition as well. He said that he and assistant coach Carl Roth usually talk about the game as they make the trek to the stadium, going over the first plays of the game and the opposing team’s strengths. But the tradition has a big effect on the athletes.
“It’s gotten more popular and more popular. The kids like it,” Beck said. “When we have recruits in, the kids will talk about how awesome the walk is. It’s become a tradition that we’ve done for years. There’s an excitement about seeing the players before the game. There’s an atmosphere in the parking lot. There is no other place as good of a place to play. It’s a Division I atmosphere at a smaller scale.”
Beck noted a few other schools have traditional walks, like Northern Alabama, which has teams walk in front of a caged lion, their team mascot. But the walk perhaps provides a homefield advantage for PSU.
“I think it gets the kids focused on getting ready to play the game,” Beck said. “There’ve been times we come across the opponents in the parking lot. A couple of times, we’ve seen some of them come up and give us a hard time. It really gets us mentally prepared for the game.”
While PSU head football coach Chuck Broyles has never actually participated in the walk from the Weede to Carnie Smith Stadium, he said that he knows just what it means to his players.
“I watch the fans and the players and I know that the players love to do it,” Broyles said. “It really sets the tone and gets the players into the game.”
At one point in time, Broyles said that the university had considered moving the dressing room from the Weede to Carnie Smith Stadium.
That was a thought that did not sit well with Gorilla players.
“The kids were against it because they always want to make that walk,” Broyles said.
As for opponents ...
“Let’s just say that they have never made that walk twice,” Broyles said.

Player pride
Both Broyles and Beck spoke about the interest on the part of the players.
Senior linebacker Caleb Pazzie can attest to the players’ viewpoints just as well.
“The Gorilla Walk is the only thing like it around,” Pazzie said. “It doesn’t matter how you are feeling before hand, it will get you pumped up. Sometimes you don’t feel like playing at your hardest because you think, ‘We’ll just roll over this team.’ But when you walk through the crowd, you know it’s time to play hard.”
Pazzie also noted that the team has a tradition within a tradition.
“There’s always a little girl with a gnome that is way out ahead of everybody, and we’ll all go by and touch it,” Pazzie said. “There’s screaming and yelling and high fives.”
Ultimately, it makes fans, coaches and players proud to be Gorillas.
“It’s a lot different to go to another stadium, and not have it as good as we do,” Pazzie said. “We’re pretty spoiled. On game days here, there’s no other place like that.”

The Morning Sun’s Matthew Clark contributed to this report.

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.