Thursday, October 20, 2011
K-State a reflection of its legendary coach
By David Ubben
Collin Klein was handed a laminated card at the first team meeting after Bill Snyder had been re-hired as coach at Kansas State.
On it were the building blocks upon which Snyder started one of the greatest program turnarounds in college football history: Snyder's 16 Goals.
Coach Bill Snyder's 16 goals have helped rejuvenate Kansas State's football program a second time.
Meetings in which Snyder doesn't reference one or more of them are rare. He's spent the past three seasons imprinting his philosophy on his players.
"You really want me to recite them?" the Wildcats junior quarterback asked.
Oh, yes. Yes, we do.
"Commitment. Unselfishness. Unity. Improve. Be tough. Self-discipline. Great effort. Enthusiasm. Eliminate mistakes. Never give up. Expect to win. No self-limitations. Don’t accept losing. Consistency. Leadership. Responsibility," Klein said. "I think that’s in order, if I’m not mistaken."
The philosophy is working. Snyder's team has become a reflection of himself: hard-working, disciplined and making the most of what it puts out on the field every Saturday.
The team didn't feel strongly one way or another about the set of largely abstract objectives when Snyder first introduced them back in 2009.
"We’ve come to see the value and the importance of their role more recently," Klein said. "The more we’re around them, the more we appreciate them, for sure."
It's no wonder. The media picked the Wildcats to finish eighth in the Big 12. Oddsmakers told Kansas State it would lose the past four weeks.
Snyder's team, though, is 6-0 and ranked No. 11. It's only 60 minutes against rival Kansas on Saturday from setting up one of the biggest games in school history, a showdown with national title contender Oklahoma at, of course, Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.
This, despite being outgained in each of the past four games: road victories over Miami and Texas Tech and home wins over Missouri and a ranked Baylor team.
"I’m not so sure that statistics win ballgames for you. I don’t think many coaches really believe in that. I think we’ve been-- a lot of things happen. I think we’ve had good fortune. I think our youngsters have played hard," Snyder said. "We’re fortunate to be where we are. I certainly understand that, can appreciate that ... There’s not a great deal of thought given to what’s happened in the first six ballgames, other than mistakes that we’ve made and how we might improve on those and get them corrected."
You can figure by now, his team feels the same way, having long since bought into Snyder's way.
His team has the third-fewest penalties in the Big 12. No Big 12 team has turned the ball over fewer times than the Wildcats' seven.
Can't win in total yards? Win everywhere else. The Wildcats blocked two field goals against Texas Tech and returned an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns.
"We have been able to avoid beating ourselves in most instances. We haven’t put ourselves in extremely bad positions," Snyder said. "We’ve been a little more disciplined during the season that have allowed us not to make mistakes that put your football team in jeopardy. And I think they have the spirit, passion and belief in what they’re doing. They’re doing it and they play together very well."
If you're keeping count, Snyder, in one quote, referenced six of his 16 goals. Nine if you want to count liberally.
It's not hard to get behind Snyder, as his team has. His status as a coaching legend speaks for itself. And that's before Snyder speaks to his players.
Klein, a Colorado native, and safety Tysyn Hartman knew who Snyder was in grade school, and Hartman didn't even follow college football before he began the recruiting process.
"It was kind of one of those awe moments," Hartman says of his first in-person meeting with Snyder after the coach took over for Ron Prince.
What sticks with Klein still is how much Snyder cares about his players. Even from the first meeting, it was obvious, though Klein can't put his finger on exactly what's so attractive about it.
"I was walking into the complex, and he obviously wasn’t coaching at that time, but I met him, shook his hand. He asked how I was doing," Klein said, "but it seemed like he really cared how I was doing. He really cared about me. He obviously didn’t even know me at that time. That was pretty special. ... Once you get to talk to him, once you get to know him, you just feel it. It’s genuine, it’s sincere. It’s constant. I respect it and it's something I definitely will emulate in my own life.
Special is a perfect word for what Kansas State is doing this season. And to see the reason why, just look for that purple windbreaker and silver hair roaming the sidelines.
"Nobody really expected this out of us. We started the season and most people had us winning like four games all season," Hartman said. "It's great."