NCF Nation: Tom Hayes

At 73, Snyder still leader of young men

December, 30, 2012
Arthur Brown didn't know much about Bill Snyder when he realized he wanted to come home to Kansas after making just 17 tackles in two seasons at Miami. He needed a change of scenery, and he landed in The Little Apple, just about two hours from his hometown of Wichita.

"I really didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t quite sure who he was or what he was about," said Brown, a blue-chip recruit who signed with Miami as the nation's No. 1 linebacker in 2008. "I heard a lot of great things about what he’d done for the community of Manhattan and the program itself, so other people’s perception of him definitely molded my perception for when I was making that decision to go to Kansas State."

[+] EnlargeKansas State Wildcats linebacker Arthur Brown
Scott Sewell/US PresswireKansas State linebacker Arthur Brown credits Bill Snyder with showing him how to be an effective leader.
All those people? They were right, and Brown matured from a possible star with a questionable future into the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year under Snyder's tutelage after deciding the 73-year-old silver fox was the man he'd trust with his final two seasons of college football.

Snyder's not going to make any "Gangnam Style" parody videos any time soon. He's not going to post rap lyrics in the locker room or try any other dated attempts to stay relevant. What keeps Snyder relevant and 18 to 22-year-olds listening to his message is the kind of thing that never goes out of style.

"His character and him understanding the importance and value of investing in young people and giving back," Brown said. "That’s what he’s all about. He’s truly a man of service and that’s what he does for this team."

For Brown, he turned a quiet, introspective talent into a leader on one of the Big 12's best defenses, helping lead K-State to the Big 12 title.

"He's a tremendous leader by example. He's not a real vocal guy. In fact, he's really too quiet. I get on him about that, in a good way. I tease him. That's what he would tell you," defensive coordinator Tom Hayes told reporters this week. "When the coaches aren't looking, that's when the team gets better. If your leadership is good, that's where he helps our team. Every time they were working in the weight room, went out in the summer with the offense messing around, he's out there. He's going as fast as he can go all the time."

That wasn't always the case for Brown.

"[Snyder] gave me an opportunity to grow and be a leader on this team, and that was somewhere I struggled, something I was never naturally comfortable with," Brown said. "Him being the leader he is and a great example of how to function as a leader, I had a chance to watch him and he molded me and he shaped me and helped me become a better leader for this team."

Brown's on-field acumen is obvious, and he's certainly seen improvement in his two years (and one redshirt year as a transfer) in Manhattan.

"You watch the tape, and everybody's blocked on your defense, including him, but he gets unblocked fairly quickly. The ball is skirting around the wide part of the field, and here comes Arthur like a blur and makes the play," Hayes said this week. "You go, 'How did he do that?' That's just what he does."

Still, Brown's biggest growth came via the man whose name is on the stadium and helped give Kansas State a rebirth for a second time.

"He’s been an influence on me and that’s really all of us," Brown said. "A lot of the guys on the team, we truly feel that he is a father or a grandfather figure to us. I can imagine those younger guys coming in and gaining the same perception of coach Snyder. He’s just a leader who does a great job relating to young people."
Kansas State gave its fans plenty of reason to be nervous for most of Saturday night's win.

The Wildcats survived close calls against FCS foes Eastern Kentucky and Massachusetts in recent seasons. Opening-night struggles against what should have been overmatched opponents are nothing new.

That was the case Saturday until a 35-point fourth-quarter outburst gave the Wildcats a convincing 51-9 victory over Missouri State.

Collin Klein didn't necessarily help or hurt his fledgling Heisman campaign, completing 19 of 28 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Kansas State looks like it's trying to limit the damage done to its workhorse quarterback. He carried the ball 317 times last season, averaging 26.4 per game.

Tonight? Just 12 carries for 59 yards. Bill Snyder's team did what it took to win. The game's biggest highlight? A 95-yard sprint from John Hubert, who finished with 152 yards and a score on his 12 carries.

Kansas State hardly outgained the Bears, 493-415, which has to cause plenty of concerns for Tom Hayes' defense, playing its first game under a new coordinator since Chris Cosh left for South Florida.

Still, it's an opening game, and you have to consider this progress from last season, when the Cats needed fourth-quarter heroics to stage a 10-7 comeback win over Eastern Kentucky.

This one had the Cats sweating early, but the end result was pretty, even if three of the final four touchdowns were quick strikes from 95, 89 (Tramaine Thompson punt return) and 46 yards out.

It's 1-0 for the Wildcats, and the Cats will prep themselves for a Week 2 date at home against Miami (Fla.).