Open Mike: 16 Mike Tufano November 27, 2013 Features, Open Mike, Snyder Week And truly believe we will. In November 1988, a funny thing happened. It’s the sort of thing that feels the start of a movie, but in reality, happens every year. The new guy comes in and makes promises that no one knows if or how he could possibly keep. We saw it just down the road when another coach came in promising to turn things around and come after the reigning champions of the state. 2 years and not even a handful of wins later, they’re still waiting. But we’re not. To common goals and to being successful. So what makes this different? Why could Bill Snyder step into the one place where no one else would go and take on a job that only crazy man would dare to take on? We’ve all heard the speech. Every home football Saturday it plays, and if you’re wearing purple, you get the same goosebumps as the rest of us. Those of us old enough to not be in school anymore lived through it. The greatest turnaround in college football history. The key to that self-fulling prophecy? It was found in the second half of his statement. “It’s not one to be taken lightly.” Show me a man who works harder than Bill Snyder. I know I don’t. Sure, I believe in myself and what I do. But when it comes down to it, aside from a few tasks here and there, I sit down at my desk with some coffee in the morning, and eventually I rinse out my cup and leave the rest at work. But not him. There is no I in Team. We’ve heard Snyder tell the story of the farmer that came to see him. To tell him just what it means that the program was finally, after a lifetime of heartache, moving in the right direction. As I write this on a Tuesday evening, many of you may be sitting down to dinner. Others may be flipping on the tv, or finding whatever way you can to relax. But I’d bet my meager life’s savings that’s not where Bill Snyder is. He’s working. Preparing. Scheming. Because he knows that on Saturday that coach down the road is going to do everything he can to pull of a miracle, and Bill Snyder is not going to let you, or I, or that farmer down. Mentally and physically. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that Bill Snyder does this just for us. Has any man been driven to win in the way that he has? He’d never say it in quite this way, but I don’t believe for one second that Bill Snyder wouldn’t beam with pride and what he’s built in Manhattan, if he ever looked away from the game film long enough to notice. K-State wins, because Bill Snyder wills it to be so. If you do so one time it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life. Of course, it wasn’t always pretty. No matter how young the fan, every K-Stater knows about the Miracle in Manhattan, but it’s easy to forget down times. Success came slowly. There was just one win that first year. Even 7 wins in 1991 didn’t land K-State in a bowl game. Even following his first Big 12 Championship the bowl streak came to an end. But a couple years of losing couldn’t even touch the heartbreak in 1998, or the old wounds that opened again in 2012. Because no matter how great you may be, there’s always one more step to achieve. And no one is ready to stop fighting, least of all, Bill Snyder. Your very, very best every time. And so we have that famous mantra. Be 1-0 this week. It’s the only way we get better. Whether it’s sitting down to a new work project or looking across the field at a Sooner team that’s heralded as the greatest team to ever play the game. For some it’s cliche, but if Bill Snyder has taught us anything, it’s that we take it one game at a time. And games build into seasons. Seasons build into eras. And as we build we discover dominance. We see the magic of seasons like 2003 and 2012. And we see the ones that almost were, and even find a new appreciation for the building blocks that built it all. Everyday… as a player, person and student. And when you take a step back, and look and see all that’s been accomplished, one thing holds true. Even in the lean years, there’s a groundwork of success. You don’t have a Big 12 Championship in 2012 without the foundation of success that was laid in the 2011 season. And you don’t have 2011 without getting back to a bowl game in 2010 that left us all — fans, players, and coaches — hungry for more. (Never-Never-Never) It comes with an emotional cost. Remember 1999? Coming off of that oh-so-close season, K-State was ranked #16 to start the year. Just 3 weeks in brought a road conference game, but it was just Iowa State, right? We could sleepwalk through that game. And we tried. But finding ourselves in a huge halftime hole, the fans –I was one of them — sat in the stands lamenting the season that was going to fall apart so early. And then David Allen ran back a punt, and it was on. K-State came all the way back to win that game 35-28. The Cats knew that you never give up. And it was a lesson that would be learned again a few weeks later in Stillwater, when this time, those of us in the stands didn’t even worry when K-State was down by 3 touchdowns. When it was all said and done, that season following the one that got away, ended with just one loss and a win in the Holiday Bowl. Do it right, don’t accept less. But sometimes you don’t get behind. Sometimes giving up never was even an option. As K-State made their conference championship run a season ago, you never heard people on the national level talk about how great the athletes were. Sure, we had some incredibly athletic players like Arthur Brown and Chris Harper. But the refrain that came from the national media, once again forced to pay attention to the work that Bill Snyder was doing in the Little Apple, was “these guys just don’t make mistakes.” Don’t beat yourself. And it’s true. We didn’t. And then came this season. We did. Penalties. Turnovers. All the things that a Bill Snyder led football team just doesn’t do. It was as though the team just didn’t buy in to what the coaches were preaching. But in every downfall there comes a time when you have to take a step back, and evaluate the direction you’re headed. Turnovers fell. Penalties dropped. Games have been won, and K-State is headed back to a bowl. It may be short of the expectations that many had for this team, but maybe righting the ship is the greatest success that was out there on the year. You are responsible for your performance. The truth is, we’re just not perfect. None of us are. Sometimes it takes longer for us to realize that. Even after a streak of 11 straight bowl games the 2004 and 2005 teams started sliding downhill. Even Bill Snyder will say things were off track, and perhaps that’s what led to his retirement-turned-sabbatical. And maybe it was the realization of the team’s flaws, and the ability to unite under a common purpose that made that first game in the newly named Bill Snyder Family Stadium such a roaring success. Even with a couple disappointing years, everyone in that stadium knew exactly what Bill Snyder meant to this program. Even if we weren’t around for the bad times, we knew the stories. And we lived through the great times. It’s no coincidence that at the same time the football team entered a decade of dominance, the turnaround wasn’t limited to the football field. Kansas State’s enrollment went up, and with it the little land grant school in the Little Apple became something more than it had ever been before. Anyone who doesn’t attribute at least a chunk of that to Bill Snyder doesn’t understand K-State. It was for that reason he was carried of the field. And it’s for that reason his statue stands outside the gates. Expect more of yourself. So I’ve often wondered… did Bill Snyder know what he was getting into when he took this job? Did he know that he was setting the dreams in motion for an entire university? Did he know that he’d inspire and lead men like Jordy Nelson, Jon McGraw, Joe Bob Clements, Marcus Watts, and a host of others to believe in themselves when no one else would give them a shot? That walk on tradition is no accident. Where else can a kid from Riley County High School walk on to a team and find a path to becoming one of the best wide receivers in the NFL? That’s the sort of thing that only happens in dreams and movies. And it’s the sort of thing that can only happen in a place where one man has gone before to make an unattainable dream a reality. Come together as never before. So do I think that Bill Snyder is a special man? Without a doubt. Don’t forget. It was his idea, and demand, that it not be “Bill Snyder Stadium,” but instead, “Bill Snyder Family Stadium.” And the day it was named he told us all that we’re a part of the family. My younger, even more cynical self, sat back and didn’t believe it. But now I do. How can I deny the love he has for Kansas State? The countless hours. The endless dedication. All for his family. Someday he’ll be gone. The truth is, no one lives forever. College football will turn the page. K-State will have some bad years. And we’ll have some good years. The rest of the football world will eventually forget about him, other than hearing his name each time a broadcast begins with the stadium that now bears his name. But not us. We won’t forget. We can’t forget. Everyone can set the example. Because as long as there is still life to be lived, we’ll be telling our children, and their children, and every youngster who will give us a minute to listen, about the man who wrote down 16 simple goals, and followed them everyday. And how if we do the same, there’s no limit to the miracles that can happen. And that’s not something to be taken lightly.