The Folks who put together the media guide at Kansas State might have overstated the team's metamorphosis just a tad when they wrote this sentence: "The remarkable turnaround...is the kind of stuff film makers dream about. It's David conquering Goliath, Washington's crossing of the Delaware and D-Day all rolled into one hard-working, heart-warming script." Still, it's hard to blame a program that has enjoyed the most remarkable turnaround in college football history for engaging in a bit of hyperbole.
Though the news out of Manhattan, Kans., seems far-fetched, it is all true. The toad really did turn into a prince. For those not familiar with the miserable past of K-State football, here's a recap. Kansas State was the first team in history to lose 500 games and had gone nearly 800 days without a win when Bill Snyder, the offensive coordinator at Iowa, took over before the 1989 season. "About 100 years of K-State football was not an attractive sight," says Snyder.
As the playwright of the "heart-warming script," Snyder has added these cuddly scenes: The Wildcats have already won more games in the 1990s (35) than they did in the '80s (22). They have had 12 All-Americas in the past six years. Their 18 wins since '93 are a school record for a two-year period. They have gone to a bowl in each of the last two seasons. The list goes on. "With a top-20 ranking the last couple of years," says Snyder, "there's the national belief that this season we have arrived."
Indeed. "In high school I had never even heard of K-State," says wide receiver Mitch Running, who's from Decorah, Iowa. "My mom called Coach and got me in." Running walked on in 1991, and the following year he earned a scholarship. This season he is a team captain. "Things have changed," says Running. "The guys that were starting then could barely make our second team now."
Running, who caught 31 passes for 441 yards and two touchdowns last fall, will lead an offense that has seven starters returning. Matt Miller, a 1993 transfer from Texas A&M who backed up quarterback Chad May, finally gets his chance now that May is in the NFL.
The defense, which was ranked 23rd in the country last fall, retains eight first-stringers. Tackle Tim Colston, who had 91 tackles in '94, is considered the top defensive player in the Big Eight.
Considering what his team has achieved, what could Snyder possibly do for an encore in '95? "All we want to do is get better each day," he says. "We still have a lot to accomplish."
Come on, Coach, enjoy the success. What did David do after beaning Goliath with that stone? What did Washington do upon reaching the riverbank? Surely, they took a bow.