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Kansas fan Cam Werner’s viral redemption, from ‘I Am Sad’ to storming the field

Cam Werner was really very unhappy that November afternoon in 2017. His favourite soccer crew did not play nicely.

Kansas got here shut to shedding to Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma by 38 factors in the Jayhawks’ house finals. They would end the season with a 1-11 file, with the solely win over FCS opponents Southeast Missouri coming a very long time in the past in Week 1.

Of course Werner had gone to the sport as traditional. He has been attending soccer video games in Kansas for many years; his uncle used to play there, he grew up simply half an hour away in Topeka, and his household has at all times had large hatchbacks. Werner has organized his crash round Saturdays at Memorial Stadium for so long as he can keep in mind. His first jersey was that of linebacker Gabe Toomey.

On that exact Saturday in 2017, earlier than the sport, Werner knew Kansas was going to lose. But he did carry some indicators to the sport as a result of his good friend in the marching band requested him to put on one which mentioned, “Pay the band.” So Werner deliberate precisely that. Then he figured he would possibly as nicely get artistic with a second character.

“I made one that said ‘I’m happy’ and ‘I’m sad’ on each side,” remembers Werner the athlete on this week. “I used to be simply attempting to mess around throughout the sport. For instance, if we get a primary down, I might throw up the “I’m lucky” aspect. If it was fourth, I might flip it.

“And things didn’t go well in the second half.”

Werner was a sophomore in Kansas at the time, and his pals who sat with him in the undergraduate division determined to depart early in the fourth quarter. It was “freezing” – 52 levels with 13mph winds at kick-off – depressing climate for a depressing sport. The Sooners have been main 38-3 with 12 minutes to go, however Werner did not need to go along with his buddies. “It was the last game of the year and I had to get through it,” he mentioned.

And that is when an ESPN digicam discovered Werner: alone in the stands, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up for heat, holding the unhappy aspect of the signal with an identical facial features.

“My friends had just left, we were down and it was an injury break,” mentioned Werner. “Honestly, I was just waiting for the season to be over.”

The image went viral virtually instantly. Friends began sending Werner tweets — from Barstool Sports’ KU account to ESPN’s primary SportsCenter account. Werner determined to get pleasure from his quarter-hour of fame and began retweeting the jokes at his personal expense. As he walked house throughout campus after the sport, some followers approached him and mentioned they liked his indicators and acknowledged him from TV or Twitter. The similar factor occurred all week, a private spotlight in an in any other case weak section of his favourite program. Head coach David Beaty could be sacked in November 2018 and a disastrous, embarrassing and short-lived tenure at Les Miles would observe.

Everything modified on April 30, 2021, the day Lance Leipold was employed. As a Master Program Builder first at the Division III degree after which at Buffalo, Leipold shortly received to work. Kansas defeated South Dakota in Week 1, their first win since 2019. Then the Jayhawks defeated Texas in Week 11 in extra time. They misplaced all different video games, however they have been way more aggressive than traditional towards groups like Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia. Something had shifted.

“The game came to an end against Oklahoma, and it was one of those games where they would have missed it at halftime in the past,” Werner mentioned. “But they stayed in and you could see the discipline. The penalties were reduced. They went further. Every time Oklahoma did something, there was a counter. That hadn’t happened in the past.”

Fans seen the progress. They celebrated defeating Texas, which began a 56-game shedding streak in Big 12 play. And they walked away from a two-win season feeling prefer it was time to purchase again into the Jayhawks. “Something felt very different,” mentioned Werner.

Kansas began the season 5-0 and shortly turned quarterback Jalon Daniels right into a preseason Heisman Trophy contender and the crew turned a nationwide story. ESPN’s College GameDay went to Lawrence for the first-ever soccer sport.

Werner now lives and works in Kansas City, a 40-minute drive from campus. He’s been to each house sport this 12 months, so he had loads to rejoice. He tried to attend “GameDay” however stored getting acknowledged and stopped to take photographs, so he could not get close to the set. You see, he had made a meme out of his personal meme – a “how it started/how it’s going” comparability of his unhappy zodiac signal and a brand new, happier side-by-side comparability. “I layered it,” he mentioned, and chuckled.

Werner was additionally current in Saturday’s win over No. 18 Oklahoma State that secured bowl eligibility for the Jayhawks and led to a joyful field storm. The followers tore down the aim posts and ultimately threw them into close by Potter Lake. Werner did not take part in climbing the goalposts, however he did observe the crowd to the lake after snapping some photographs on the field.

“In 2018 and 2019 I actually worked as an equipment manager for the team, so I had to be in the dressing room and on the field for those games,” mentioned Werner. “There were still some players on the team that I knew and were friends with and I think that made it even better. I saw some of them in the field and I knew what it takes to actually climb that hill. I was with them for a couple of years in some of those really deep moments.”

Looking around the field and seeing the thousands of Kansas fans celebrating the team’s sixth win, Werner felt pure joy. Nothing about the moment or the state of the program felt random.

“It was like we managed to be respectable once more,” he said. “It’s now not embarrassing to say you are giving up a Saturday for KU soccer.”

Werner mentioned he would love to go to the bowl sport when the timing is true for him and his household. But he does not fear about lacking out if he cannot make it work. He does not assume this can be a one off season. The fan immortalized for his ache is now recognized for the reverse: his pleasure.

“I am so proud of what they have achieved and how quickly it has happened,” mentioned Werner. “Teams have sluggish rises all the time, however how shortly that occurred has thrown the highlight on a soccer crew that deserved it. Above all, I’m comfortable for all of them – and all the followers who’ve sat with me and waited for this for the final 15 years.”

(Top photograph courtesy of Cam Werner)

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