SOMEWHERE ON THE ROAD, Kan. - Kansas is known throughout the world as a top producer of wheat, yet one thing the state hasn't been known for producing is a bumper crop of blue-chip football players. But that's not the case in the Class of 2004.
After eight hours on the road and more than 500 miles of travel, it's clear to Rivals100 that two of the nation's top prospects are ready to be harvested in Kansas.
Part I of this two-part feature will focus on Cherryvale, Kan., offensive lineman Matt Boss. The second part of the feature will concentrate on Nick Patton of Winfield, Kan.
EVERYBODY KNOWS MATT BOSS Off of U.S. Highway 169 in Southeast Kansas is the tiny town of Cherryvale, Kan. The town boasts a population of around 2,400 people and when you drive through the streets you can swear that you're in any small town in America. The Stars and Stripes wave on the stores on Main Street and the streets are still made of brick and cobblestone.
The town was originally established by the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Kansas Railway Company but now it's home to one of the biggest locomotive offensive linemen in the nation.
Meet Matt Boss.
Boss, who is a spitting image to former five-star Rivals100 selection and current Oklahoma Sooner Wes Sims, measures in at an impressive 6-foot-5 and 300-plus pounds.
But the best way to describe Boss would be as a gentle giant - at least off the field.
"That's the most that I've ever seen Matt talk about himself," Cherryvale coach Jon Guidie said after watching his prize pupil give an interview to Rivals100.
"Matt's kind of shy and isn't big on talking about himself. He's a guy that lets his actions do his talking."
And it's his actions that have brought Division I coaches into Cherryvale for the first time ever. Yes that's right, Guidie said that before this April there has never been a Division I football coach to talk through the doors at Cherryvale.
Already Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has flown in to visit with Guidie and Kansas coach Mark Mangino drove down from Lawrence. There were assistant coaches from several other schools that made it into Cherryvale - Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Oklahoma State and Kentucky were the top ones.
When the coaches have come by to evaluate film on Boss they see a number of things that makes him special. Maybe it's his raw un-tapped physical ability that stands out above the rest, though.
How many 6-5, 300-pound offensive linemen can bust off a 4.81-second time in the 40-yard dash?
Matt Boss can.
How many 6-5, 300-pound offensive linemen can run on the 4x100-meter relay team?
Matt Boss can.
How many 6-5, 300-pound offensive linemen can start all-four years of his high school career?
Matt Boss will have done that when he plays his first game this fall.
How many 6-5, 300-pound offensive linemen can get his first scholarship offer before his junior season has even started?
Matt Boss did get that offer after attending a camp last summer.
There is no question if Boss wanted to run for Mayor of Cherryvale, he'd likely win in a landslide.
Just ask the people at the local Casey's General Store.
"You're here to see Matt, right" asked the lady behind the counter. "You know we've had a bunch of coaches here to see him. He's the pride and joy of Cherryvale."
Everybody knows Matt Boss and Guidie said with that comes a certain amount of pressure.
"I'm sure it's made things tougher than it might be for some other kids that are in the same situation as he is," Guidie said.
"But in this small town everybody knows Matt Boss. They've known about him since he was in the 6th grade. Heck, I've known him since he was little and knew then he was going to be special.
"He was always bigger than everybody else. When he played as a freshman, he was already 6-3 and 240 pounds. He's just one of those special kids that come around once in a lifetime.
"Like I said earlier, we've never had a Division I coach - let alone head coaches - come through here. I'm not sure when or if we're going to ever again."
Boss is handling all of this attention in stride.
He admits that he's just a country boy that likes to fish and hangs out with his friends in the parking lot at the local grocery store after football games. This college stuff is something that he admits that he's excited about, but isn't going to let it change him.
A big part of Boss' humility can be traced to his family.
When asked who is role model is, Boss is quick to point out that he looks to his uncle, Roger King, for inspiration.
"He got hurt and is paralyzed from his waist down," Boss said. "He's always been there for me and he's such an amazing person. He could have let what happened to him ruin his life, but he didn't. He has never given up on himself and won't let me let up in anything that I do.
"He's such a great person and I really admire him. He's a very important part of my life."
While Boss said he's not going to let his family make the decision for him when it does come time, he'll definitely lean on them for opinions and feedback.
"My uncle is the biggest K-State fan in the world," Boss said. "He and my father keep telling me to hurry up and commit to K-State so they can come see me play every weekend. I'm going to listen to what they have to say, but they also know that it's my decision and they're going to support me no matter what I do or where I go."
But there's no denying that K-State has made a good impression on him so far. He's attended Wildcat football camps for some time and been to Manhattan quite a few times over his high school career.
"I have a great feeling about Manhattan and K-State," Boss said.
"First of all the town is not really that big and you can tell that they really love their football team. People in the town knew who all the players were and I liked the small-town feeling that I got there.
"When I was there last time, I got to meet Michael Bishop. That was really cool. He just said hello and that he thought K-State would be good for me like it was for him."
But Boss is honest that he's not really seen the others schools on his list, so he doesn't have much to compare to Manhattan. He's going to be in Norman for a few days the Sooners' summer camp session and then also will be heading to Kentucky to check out the Wildcats' campus in June.
"I think it's kind of unfair to think about what team is the best or on top at this point," Boss said. "I really want to see what it's like at Oklahoma. Coach Wilson said that I'm going to love it down there and that they could use a guy like me. We had a nice talk about their facilities and their academics. He's a good guy.
"And I really like coach (Paul) Dunn at Kentucky. I've known him since I was a sophomore here and he was the first college coach to really work with me when I was at the K-State summer camp."
In the end, Boss knows that he's going to have to disappoint somebody with the decision he makes. And that's something he's not used to.
He works hard every day, making sure that he doesn't disappoint the people of Cherryvale, his coaches and most importantly himself.
So making somebody unhappy with something he does is going to be a new experience.
"I'd like to go ahead and get it out of the way before my football season," Boss said.
"That way, it's out of the way and I can focus just on my senior season. I'm not used to letting people down. That's going to be tough - maybe the toughest thing. I just know that I'm going to have to do what's right for me and make the decision that makes me most happy."
And then people in Manhattan, Norman, Lexington or some place else can take their turn of getting to know the gentle giant because everybody knows Matt Boss.