Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton took it as a sign when Bill Snyder announced he was retiring last weekend.
No matter how much speculation swirled about Snyder’s coaching future, Delton was convinced the man who recruited him would return for at least one more season on the sideline. When he didn’t, that made Delton think about his own career. Perhaps he could also use a change. Two days later, he announced plans to graduate and transfer as a redshirt junior.
“It wasn’t necessarily the reason I did it, but it definitely was a reason I decided to transfer,” Delton said during an interview on Wednesday. “I have tremendous respect for that man. No one works harder. I can’t say enough good things about Coach. It had a big impact. Once he said he was retiring, it was like a light bulb went off in my head.”
Delton said everyone on the team had a special reaction to the news. Players didn’t know what to expect when they were called to the football stadium for a special team meeting on Sunday afternoon. But they had a good idea when reporters and state troopers were waiting outside.
One by one, K-State players walked past the throng and took their seats in the closed-door meeting. Over the next few minutes, Snyder informed them he was not returning as their coach.
“It was definitely a unique moment,” Delton said. “Coach Snyder means so much to me. You had always heard talk about him retiring but you never believed it. This meeting had a different feel to it. We knew that something was going on. Coach just addressed the team about workouts and the offseason program. Then he announced he would be stepping down and retiring. He said K-State had started a coaching search. It was a shock to me.”
Players didn’t react with much emotion after they heard the news.
Snyder didn’t let them.
“There was a sense of emotion at the beginning, because you could just tell Coach had something to say,” Delton said. “Then he told us some jokes to lighten the mood. He didn’t want us to be sad or down in the dumps or anything like that. He wanted us to keep rowing the boat. Just because he’s not the leader of the program anymore doesn’t mean he wants us to stop. He wants us all to keep going. He said he would still be around for us. He’s not going to go too far, so if we need him we can reach out to him. I know a lot of guys have already done that.”
The meeting ended with K-State players breaking into position groups and discussing the upcoming week.
“It was no different than any other Monday meeting,” Delton said. “He told us what he had to say. I think Sean (Snyder) said a few things. We talked as a QB unit and that was the end of it. The structure of the meeting was the same as always.”
Still, it was the last time Snyder or Delton will attend that type of gathering.
Delton’s transfer leaves K-State without a proven backup quarterback next season. The Wildcats will also have to replace a respected captain.
Though his four-year career with the Wildcats was filled with ups and downs, Delton was one of the most popular players on the roster. Fans and teammates showered him with farewell messages on social media following his transfer announcement. He says the thing he will miss most about K-State is the fans. He gets fan mail just about every day in Manhattan, and he knows that is unlikely to happen at his next stop.
But he thinks this is a necessary decision for his development. Delton was unlikely to start next season with Skylar Thompson proving himself as the team’s top quarterback this season. A change of scenery will give Delton the opportunity to play immediately. He can start practicing with a new school in January and play next season as a graduate transfer.
A new school could also help him chase his post-football dream of becoming an athletic director.
For now, Delton says several schools have contacted him and expressed interest, but he doesn’t want to share many details.
“I’m keeping it pretty simple,” Delton said. “I want to go somewhere where I can provide an immediate impact and compete at a high level in the offense. But I don’t want to this to become a recruiting spectacle. I don’t want this to be about me and how many schools are recruiting me. When I make a decision, I will announce it.”
Delton departs K-State after four eventful years that saw him play in 20 games and start in six. As a junior, he completed 44 of 80 passes for 554 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 234 yards and two scores.
The Hays native had several highlights in a K-State uniform, including his MVP showing at the Cactus Bowl last season and a Sunflower Showdown victory over Kansas this season. Delton came off the bench and led the Wildcats to a victory over UCLA in last year’s bowl game by rushing for 158 yards and three touchdowns. He engineered a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to beat the Jayhawks.
That turned out to be the last time K-State fans saw him in a live game. Delton has dealt with injuries of every sort as a college player, and he was unable to play in K-State’s final two games against Texas Tech and Iowa State.
“I never had anything that required surgery, but injuries restricted me from practicing a lot this season,” Delton said. “People didn’t realize how injured I was in games. It was tough playing at times, but that’s part of football. You find a way to deal with it. Unfortunately, after the KU game, my body was just getting worse and I had to sit out. It would have been really cool to be out there those last two games. I wanted to help us get to a bowl.”