Jake Waters didn’t know what it felt like to be recruited coming out of a tiny high school in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The dual-threat quarterback had one scholarship offer, from Iowa Western Community College, and he accepted it.
Decisions don’t come much easier than that.
But after piling up stats (3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns this season) and victories (including a national championship), he became one of the most heavily recruited junior college quarterbacks. That meant he had quite a choice on his hands Thursday morning.
After months of calls from major-college coaches, and weeks of analysis, a large group gathered at Iowa Western to watch him pick between his two finalists — Kansas State and Penn State.
“I went with my gut and committed to Kansas State,” Waters said in a phone interview. “It’s a relief off my shoulders. I know this is where I want to be.”
The Wildcats, no doubt, are thrilled to have him. With senior quarterback Collin Klein moving on after the Fiesta Bowl, Waters may be K-State’s next starting quarterback. He will face competition from current K-State backup Daniel Sams, a redshirt freshman who possesses great speed, but the opportunity is there.
That’s all Waters wants.
“I just want to come in and earn the guy’s respect and compete,” Waters said. “The job is not going to be given to me. I don’t want that. I want to compete and I’m going to get that chance. I’m looking forward to that.”
Waters is a junior college All-American who led Iowa Western to a national title this season. He completed 73.3 percent of his passes along the way and rushed for nearly 300 yards. . On Thursday, he was named Player of the Year by the NJCAA.
During a news conference, he said he was leaning toward choosing Penn State earlier this week but an in-home visit from K-State quarterbacks coach Del Miller changed his mind. It also didn’t hurt that Klein called him from New York last week in between Heisman Trophy obligations.
“I was talking to Coach Miller and Collin got on the phone and told me congrats on everything I’ve done and that K-State is a great place,” Waters said. “He also said that he was happy for me no matter what.”
Waters envisions himself fitting into K-State’s offense well, though at 5-foot-11 he admits he won’t be able to run the ball in the same ways Klein did.
Helping him in the transition will be the presence of two Iowa Western teammates.
Fellow junior college All-American Devon Nash, a 6-foot-5, 260 pound defensive end, announced Thursday that he has orally committing to play at K-State. Iowa Western safety Travis Green is also committed to the Wildcats.
Waters described Nash, who chose K-State over Oklahoma State, as “a stud.”
Nash said he picked the Wildcats because Bill Snyder’s reputation, the family atmosphere and the program’s track record for winning with junior college players.
“Historically, they have done the best with junior college kids,” Nash said via phone. “That was a huge factor. I come off the ball hard and I can either speed rush or strength rush. I switch it up and keep tackles guessing. I think I will fit in well with the rest of the defensive line.”
More than 1,000 viewers watched Nash announce his commitment online after Waters led off the ceremony.
Along with a never-ending stream of tweets, they felt like minor celebrities. As two of the most respected members of K-State’s 2013 recruiting class, which currently contains 15 members according to Rivals.com, they are celebrities in Manhattan.
That’s something Waters didn’t experience coming out of high school.
“I never would have expected this many people to know about me, let alone take time out of their day to watch me online or send me a tweet,” Waters said. “It makes me feel pretty good, but it’s just a testament to the coaches here at Iowa Western. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”