Strong connection between player and coach
Published on -10/1/2012, 10:25 AM
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN -- More than a generation separates them and it was almost pure coincidence they were thrown together.
But with Bill Snyder well into his second Kansas State football reclamation project, the Wildcats are increasingly taking on the personality not only of their old-school coach, but also of Collin Klein, his senior quarterback.
The Wildcats are 4-0 and riding high at No. 7 in the national rankings following last Saturday's 24-19 victory against Oklahoma. And that is coming on top of last year's breakthrough 10-3 season, Klein's first as a starter.
So in tune are Snyder, the 72-year-old head coach, and the 23-year-old Klein that it's hard sometimes to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.
"I hope so," said Klein, whose humble demeanor and tough on-field persona helped will the Wildcats to eight victories by seven or fewer points last year, and who clearly has established himself as the offense's leader. "That's come to my attention when people tell me that, 'Hey, he said the same thing.'
"Obviously this is my fourth year with him and I hope so. I know you all have to buy into a mentality and focus and that's what our focus is and it's paying off."
It's easy to forget Klein actually was recruited not by Snyder, but by Ron Prince, who took over during Snyder's three-year retirement from 2006-08.
In those four years since Snyder's return, the two have found a connection that has permeated the rest of the team. Throw in senior middle linebacker Arthur Brown, a Miami transfer from Wichita, and the Wildcats have steady leadership at the top and with the offense and defense.
"I'm always looking to see what coach Snyder has to say and what he's emphasizing," Brown said. "That's always my goal, to emphasize that every same thing."
That Snyder still can relate to players young enough to be his grandsons is further evidence that leadership is timeless. In fact, his grandson Tate Snyder, is a sophomore linebacker on the team and he coached both the father and uncle of wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
"I think just the common ground of the commitment that we all have made to be part of this team in whatever capacity -- player, coach, whatever -- probably is the biggest unifying factor from the standpoint of we all want the same thing," Klein said. "Coach wants us to be the best that we can possibly be individually, the best that we can possibly be collectively as a team and we all want that, too. I don't think you need any more than that, but he really does care for you."
The biggest difference Snyder sees from when he arrived at K-State, other than the current trend of faster-paced offenses, is with society as a whole.
"I don't know that I've changed a good deal, other than what age does to you," said Snyder, who will celebrate his 73rd birthday next Sunday, the day after the Wildcats play host to rival Kansas. "I think society has changed a great deal and well all recognize that.
"And our children are a product of today's society, so consequently, yes, they've changed. But when I say they've changed, that's kind of an all-encompassing statement (because) everybody has."
There are, of course, exceptions.
"Collin Klein, for instance, might be considered a throw-back," Snyder said. "His value system has not changed and it's been a value system that was in place 20 years ago.
"We have a lot of young people like that and it's not just isolated with Collin. We have a lot of young guys that really have a very intact value system that might be a little antagonistic to today's society, collectively overall, and not necessarily in a bad way."
Klein, who was home schooled but played for the local high school team in Loveland, Colo., makes no attempt to hide his faith and has gained the respect of his teammates for being genuine.
"He's just one of those young guys that is committed to doing things the right way," Snyder said. "He's a bright young guy and consequently has a good understanding of the mental and emotional approach that is necessary.
"He serves in a leadership role that is vocal, addresses the appropriate things and does it in such a way that his teammates receive it well. That's kind of a unique talent to have."
Therein lies the common thread.
"I don't hear Collin talk often, but I can imagine Collin being repetitious in the way coach Snyder is and emphasizing a lot of things Coach emphasizes," Brown said when asked if they sound the alike. "(Klein) is definitely a great leader and I know he's learned a lot from Coach as well."
Klein said his leadership style has evolved over time, but that being the starting quarterback has forced him to be more vocal and encouraging.
"This is something that I've understood more, that to be a leader you don't have to be perfect but you do have to be truly caring and understanding," he said. "If there was a written formula for good leadership, someone would be making a lot of money because everybody would be using it.
"You have to be yourself."
That, Klein has learned over the past four years, is a key to Snyder's success.
"He is so consistent in everything," Klein said. "Our practices are exactly the same, our travel schedules are exactly the same.
"Consequences for not doing certain things are exactly the same."
Then he pauses and laughs.
"He lives it, he doesn't just preach it."