By Kellis Robinett
Tribune News Service
Before Jim Mora became a successful football coach, he sought out Bill Snyder for advice.
He asked Snyder for 15 minutes of his time and asked him several wide-ranging questions to learn more about "the dynamic legacy that he has at Kansas State." He asked Snyder about football, his role in the Manhattan community and his day-to-day interactions with players.
Mora described himself as "a kid" at the time of this exchange. Whenever it happened, he says "it helped me in my career."
So it's easy to understand why Mora, now the coach at No. 14 UCLA, was all smiles when he joined Snyder, still the coach at K-State, on Thursday in San Antonio for a news conference to promote their Jan. 2 game in the Alamo Bowl.
"I am sitting next to a legend as a coach," Mora said. "But I think more importantly, it's about what he has meant to college football as a mentor to young people. That's what I most admire. He is someone I would like to model my career after."
The respect is mutual.
Snyder has praised Mora as a coach since the Wildcats accepted an invitation to the Alamo Bowl.
"I greatly appreciate what Jim has done," Snyder said Thursday, "but most significantly, I like the way he has done it. I admire coaches that don't get caught up in all the things that are taking place in college athletics today and coaches who genuinely care about their program and the so many things that are investments in their lives outside of athletics and outside of football as well.
"My understanding is that Jim is a great promoter of that."
K-State and UCLA may provide bulletin-board material for each other in future media interviews, but one thing is for sure: It won't come from Mora or Snyder.
Mora has come a long way since he was asking Snyder for coaching tips. Much like his father, Jim Mora Sr., he has found success in both college football and the NFL. Since starting his coaching career in 1984 as a graduate assistant at Washington, he has served as an assistant with the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. He has also been a head coach for the Atlanta Falcons and Seahawks.
In 2012, he returned to his college roots with UCLA, going 28-11 in his first three seasons. He has guided the Bruins to nine or more victories each year.
That success made UCLA a popular pick to contend for a playoff berth this season. The Bruins opened the year ranked seventh. Though they didn't live up to that preseason billing, they contended for a Pac-12 championship and went 9-3.
A postseason trip to the Alamo Bowl serves as a valued consolation prize.
"We look at it as an amazing opportunity for us to go against one of the finest college football programs and one of the finest coaches in football," Mora said.
Alamo Bowl representatives opened Thursday's news conference by listing the top accomplishments of both coaches.
Snyder and his 187 career victories were acknowledged first. Then it was time for Mora and the highlights of his 30-year career.
When the introductions were over, Mora was asked for an opening statement, but is focus was still on Snyder.
"When you mentioned Coach Snyder and his record I was trying to figure out how many more wins he has than I do," Mora said. "It's a whole lot. I have great respect for what they have been able to do at Kansas State."