Kansas redshirt sophomore tight end Jared Casey said Saturday that he is now on scholarship following a successful season that included the winning two-point conversion reception in overtime against Texas.
Casey, from Plainville, enrolled at Kansas in 2020. He played in nine of the Jayhawks' 12 games last season, primarily on special teams, before assuming a more prominent role on offense in the final three games.
He said he was told in April by coach Lance Leipold that he would be given a scholarship, then immediately called his parents, Jerry and Karen, to let them know.
"It was really surreal," Casey said after the Jayhawks' 10th practice of training camp. "I just went into a meeting and they basically just told me. I called my parents really quickly. It was kind of like, an emotional exchange between us because I'm a hard worker and I worked for this, so it was really cool."
Casey ran for more than 2,000 yards, accounted for 30 touchdowns and had nine interceptions and 425 tackles while at Plainville High but did not have any Division I scholarship offers upon graduation.
He accepted former coach Les Miles' offer to enroll at Kansas as a preferred walk-on, which is a designation given to a player who is not on scholarship but does not have to try out for the team, and did not play his first season.
His greatest achievement with the team happened on Nov. 13, when quarterback Jalon Daniels threw him the ball on the goal line in overtime as the Jayhawks defeated the Longhorns 57-56 on the road.
That play led to a name, image and likeness deal with Applebee's, which filmed a commercial with Casey in the following days to capitalize upon the moment.
He then had four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown at TCU on Nov. 20 and finished the season with four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia on Nov. 27.
Casey, who had been taking out loans to pay for his education, said he had a meeting with Leipold and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki after the season ended in which they alluded to the possibility of him receiving a scholarship. Those discussions went silent until the spring, when he learned it would happen.
"I still had to show that I'm going to do what I needed to do in the spring and play how I need to play and it will come eventually," Casey said. "That was the right timing."
He missed a few practices early in training camp after pulling a hamstring on the second day, but Kotelnicki said last week that Casey, who moved from fullback to tight end, has continued to develop throughout training camp.
"He had a great spring and he's been great through fall camp," Kotelnicki said. "He's able to execute everything we're asking our tight ends to do ... so, bare minimum for my expectation is he allows us to be multiple at that position group as well."
Tight end Mason Fairchild, a senior, said he didn't find out about Casey's scholarship until a few days after he met with Leipold given that the players had scattered following the end of spring practices.
He said that for Casey to get that opportunity, "it was really awesome."
"He was kind of that symbol last year of our improved performance at the end of last season — in our tight end group especially," Fairchild said. "He can be a guy that can play serious minutes, as with all of us, but he's done a really good job. He's one of the smartest guys in our room. He can be very multiple in what position he plays, and I'm excited for what he can do."