Bill Snyder swung a golf club the other day.
It didn’t go well, but the former Kansas State football coach smiles as he tells the story anyway. He was at his house trying to catch up on some chores when he pulled a five iron from his bag and took a practice swing for the first time in years. The club barely made it above his shoulders and he struggled with the follow through. It wasn’t pretty, but it motivated him for more.
“I am doing some stretching exercises now and I may re-approach the club here in a few days,” Snyder said Saturday night following a public celebration of his illustrious coaching career at Bramlage Coliseum. “I promised (Jim) Colbert that I would. He is pushing my buttons to do it. I will get on it.”
This is a snapshot of what retirement looks like for Snyder.
Eight months after hanging up his headset, one of the hardest working coaches in college football history finally has time to explore new hobbies. And he’s taking advantage.
Snyder says he exercises on a treadmill every day, while also making time for the swimming pool. He’s begun helping his wife clean up his house, too. After years of collecting souvenirs from his travels and storing them in boxes at his home, he is now going through them and getting rid of the items he no longer needs.
He has made enough progress this summer to turn his home office into, well, a home office. It’s been a storage room for the past decade.
“I still have an awful lot of things that I have put aside for 30 years, 40 years, 50 years that I am trying to get through right now,” Snyder said. “My wife is upset with me right now, because our house is full of boxes. I am a pack rat. I have save everything ... I am making some headway in that respect, but there are still 150 large boxes of stuff.”
Snyder seems happy as he explains details from his retirement. He carries less stress now that there is no football season to prepare for and in some ways appears younger than he did at the conclusion of his final season with the Wildcats.
But it hasn’t been a perfect transition for him. In fact, he misses football now more than when he initially retired 14 years ago and returned to coaching in 2009.
The first time Snyder retired, it took him six months to feel at ease with what he thought was life after football. Things are taking longer now. Perhaps that’s because he pushed himself too hard in the spring, agreeing to speak at 29 different charity functions in April. Or maybe it’s something else.
“I think about it from time to time and it just seems as though, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten through it as well as I did last time,” Snyder said. “It’s still on my mind. I’m not 100 percent at ease yet, but it will come.”
Saturday’s celebration might help.
Hundreds of K-State fans, dozens of former K-State players a handful of former K-State assistant coaches honored Snyder this weekend. Big names in attendance included actor Eric Stonestreet, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
They came together to celebrate Snyder’s 215 victories, 19 bowl games and two conference championships. They also told plenty of stories about just how bleak the K-State football landscape was before Snyder arrived and then shared some of their favorite Snyder stories.
B.J. Finney, a former K-State center now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, told a story about the time the Wildcats converted an improbable 3rd-and-27 during a 2011 victory at Miami. The team was backed up near its own end zone and few in the stadium expected K-State to pick up a first down on the next play, especially when they realized it was a quarterback draw.
But the Wildcats were confident in the play and, sure enough, Collin Klein found a way to move the chains with his legs.
“We never gave up,” Finney said. “We knew we would come out on top because of what Coach Snyder instilled in us.”
Former K-State receiver Kevin Lockett also spoke in front of the crowd, cracking some jokes about Snyder’s love for bowl windbreakers and coffee but mostly applauding his offensive genius.
K-State fans never got a true opportunity to say goodbye to Snyder when he retired after the 2018 season, but that changed on Saturday when former K-State president Jon Wefald led the crowd in a MVP chant for Snyder.
Stoops, who served under Snyder as a defensive assistant from 1989-95, gave the highest-profile speech of the night.
He got some laughs with a story about the time Snyder knocked on his office door inside the K-State football facility at 11:30 p.m. one night and informed him with some good news. He could leave work early. His normal work day lasted much longer.
Snyder’s work ethic was a big reason why he was able to transform K-State football from a moribund team to a consistent winner.
Many doubted he would succeed in Manhattan. Not Stoops.
“Coach Snyder knew how to win,” Stoops said. “We did it at Iowa. We were going to do it here. It was because of that faith and belief in Coach Snyder that never did I believe once, briefly or at all, that we weren’t going to win. Little by little we did. With (Snyder’s) meticulous attention to detail, we won ... He is a bulldog.”
Snyder hopes the Wildcats will continue winning as he watches them from his suite high above the field at the stadium that bears his name next season. He hasn’t spent much time around new coach Chris Klieman, he but likes what he has seen from him so far.
In retirement, Snyder could choose to live just about anywhere. His work with K-State football is over. The transformation is complete.
But he wants to stay in Manhattan and support the university in any way he can. Even at his own celebration, he deferred applause to his family and thanked the people who supported him all these years. So this is where he will continue to live and eventually embrace retirement.
He might even make it to the golf course at some point.