MANHATTAN — Carson Coffman doesn't like to brag about his life. He's not sure what he would say about it if he did.
Even though he's the starting quarterback for Kansas State's football team, he considers himself a normal college student. For more than four years, he has walked across campus without creating a stir. He's not sure people can identify him out of uniform.
Well, he wasn't sure until a few days ago, anyway. After playing the game of his college career and leading the Wildcats to a 59-7 thrashing of rival Kansas, he knows what it feels like to be a college football hero.
Two days after his five-touchdown performance, Coffman received a standing ovation from a group of students while attending a K-State volleyball game.
"That," Coffman admitted, "was pretty cool."
He offers no further details, and is quick to change the subject. Ask him if his life has changed in the past week, and he shakes his head. He many be perceived differently, but he's still the same person.
Just as he never allowed a string of forgettable performances — which had fans calling for his benching — to faze him earlier this season, he's not letting success go to his head now.
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder expects nothing less. Against Kansas, he thought Coffman excelled by staying within himself. He stuck to the plays he knew he could make, and made them extremely well. The formula needs to be repeated.
"He has to understand how he got there," Snyder said. "He got there by diligent work and focus and concentration and effort and a mindset that allowed him to make the right decisions. As long as he continues to work in that direction . . . I think he's going to continue to focus on what's important and how he can improve himself from where he is."
Clearly, Coffman's popularity has a direct correlation to his on-field performance. His play against Kansas earned him applause. The question now: Can he do it again?
Coffman and his teammates are confident the answer is yes. Coffman attributes his improvement to two key areas.
First, he made few — if any — mistakes against the Jayhawks. Instead of forcing the ball into coverage, he checked down to other receivers or took off running. For the first time, he felt like he wasn't trying to do too much.
"I'm feeling more comfortable and growing as a quarterback as the season goes on," he said.
Second, Coffman brought back a mindset from his past. Heading into the Kansas game, he remembered how well he played in high school growing up in suburban Kansas City, Mo. He remembered how he used to be so confident on the football field that he secretly hoped for opposing punters to stick his offense at the one-yard line so he could drive his team 99 yards for a touchdown.
"I just tried to feel comfortable and calm," Coffman said. ". . . Just confident, and that nothing could stop me or my teammates."
He was confident all week, but felt unstoppable when he heard two songs that he used to warm up to in high school — Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Phil Collins’ "In the Air Tonight" — playing during pregame stretches at Memorial Stadium.
"That got me in the zone," Coffman said.
Baylor may use an alternate play list this week, and its speedy defense will certainly offer more of a challenge than the Jayhawks did a week ago.
Coffman will be tested in front of a road crowd, and he knows it will take more than his newfound popularity on campus to play well for the second week in a row. That's why he doesn't pay much attention to it. No matter how cool the standing ovation was.
"It doesn't mean a whole lot if we don't come out here at Baylor and play well," Coffman said.