MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder can't relate to his players through twitter or rap music, and at the age of 70 he isn't likely to learn how anytime soon. But at this point, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for him to adapt his old coaching ways to the present times.
They seem to be holding up just fine.
The killer hours, the demanding practices, the always-pushing-to-be-better mentality — even after wins — have the Kansas State football team on the right track today just as they did when Snyder first came to Manhattan.
"Not much has changed," said K-State associate athletics director for football operations Sean Snyder, Bill's son. "He's still extremely focused and he still works the same long hours. It's the same way he's done it his whole life. He's the same ol' coach."
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And his influence on his team is as great as it ever was. Deep down, he still knows what is most important. He still looks at his team as a family.
Sean says Snyder has always understood that players want three things above all else: to be coached, respected and looked after. It's what he provided then, and it's what he's providing now.
"It doesn't matter if you are 60, 70, 18 or 10, a family is a family," Sean said. "Once you get into the family and buy into the family there is a comfort level there."
Not everyone expected that comfort level to be so evident this early on. The situations separating Snyder's first stint at K-State to now are just so different.
Snyder first came to Kansas State in 1989 as an unknown coordinator and guided a program that had hit rock bottom to bowl games and a conference championship. After 17 years on the job he stepped away from the game and retired.
Three years later he decided to come back.
The team he came back to wasn't hopeless and he was no longer an unknown, but there were questions about both.
Coming into the season, the Wildcats needed to replace a NFL quarterback and their best returning defensive lineman has played in one game. A new running back needed to be broken in and the secondary needed upgrading.
Was Snyder, at his age and coming out of retirement, the right man to fix all those problems?
Nine games into the season, a different question is being asked. Instead of wondering about who should play quarterback or how much energy Snyder could bring to the office on a daily basis, fans are now trying to figure out how high these Wildcats can climb.
Snyder has a team that few expected to contend for a bowl game, and lost to Louisiana-Lafayette in its second game of the season, sitting atop the Big 12 North with a 3-2 record and overall mark of 5-4.
With a win against Kansas on Saturday, the Wildcats will reclaim bragging rights in their own state. With two more wins, they will be bowl eligible. With a strong enough finish, they will be headed to Dallas to play for the Big 12 championship.
With those possibilities in mind, some are pushing Snyder as a Big 12 coach of the year candidate. If he can deliver another division title to Manhattan, few will be able to argue his credentials.
K-State senior quarterback Grant Gregory certainly won't.
"We weren't a very good team at the beginning of the year," Gregory said. "From where we started to where we are now, we've improved a lot.... We've gotten better offensively, defensively and in special teams since then."
There are many reasons for that progression, but at the center of it all is Snyder.
For three straight years he watched Kansas State games — missing only two or three, he guesses — from a stadium suite and didn't deeply engrain himself in what was going on with the team.
He says he "just watched games like an average fan," and still isn't to where he'd like to be in terms of overall team knowledge.
"I don't know everything about them," he said. "And not nearly as much as I'd like to and probably need to. I'm a work in progress just like everybody else."
But it didn't take him long to see what this team needed most. Without record-breaking signal-caller Josh Freeman around to lead the offense, he knew he needed depth at quarterback and convinced Gregory to transfer from South Florida for his final year of eligibility.
He also noticed that Kansas State needed help defending the spread offenses that are becoming more popular by the day. So he started running the 4-2-5 and recruited Emmanuel Lamur from junior college to help in the secondary.
Both newcomers have made an incredible impact right away. Gregory has given the Wildcats new life on offense since taking over at quarterback and Lamur leads the team in tackles.
It is impressive that his traditional methods worked so successfully. But what has made the progression of these Wildcats so impressive is the way Snyder, even with a big age difference between them, connects with the players who were recruited by former coach Ron Prince.
Many of his long-time philosophies are starting to rub off on them, like never settling.
"He's come along way with this team," center Wade Weibert said. "We're to the point now where we're not happy with a performance if we didn't play well and we win. He's raised the bar on us and he's helped us raise our own bars and figure out a way to reach the next level."
That's happened a few times this season. After losing by 52 points at Texas Tech, Snyder called out his defensive players and K-State responded by beating Texas A&M by 48 points the next time out.
Following a 20-6 win over Colorado, when the Wildcats struggled to move the ball, he angrily criticized his offense and it responded by gaining 364 yards and scoring 30 points against one of the nation's best defense at Oklahoma.
In short, he knows what his players need to hear.
"We listen to him a lot, especially to his major points of emphasis," sophomore safety Tysyn Hartman said. "I believe that's allowed us to have the type of season we've had so far, with so many ups and downs, close wins and tough losses. Just being able to bounce back and persevere through it, that's the hard work and dedication that he's been trying to instill in us since the first week he's been on campus."
Gregory says he'll be listening to Snyder as long as he can.
"When he says something you need to take it to heart," Gregory said, "because he's been through everything."