Bill Snyder welcomes Kansas State football players to preseason camp the same way every year. Each summer, on the first day of practice, he asks them to participate in a grueling conditioning test that pushes their bodies to their limits.
Some years, players walk away exhausted. Other years, they struggle simply to finish. You can always count on someone vomiting. Passing the test with ease is rare.
So you can imagine the K-State coach’s reaction when there weren’t many horror stories going around this year.
"The one thing that I was extremely positive about or feel awfully good about is the conditioning test," Snyder said, "which we have done for 25 years or so, the same one every single year since we have been here. We had a higher rate of young guys pass a very complex and difficult conditioning test, more so than any other time that I have been here.
"We had 91 percent of the players pass that on the very first opportunity."
The conditioning test, which involved a series of sprints and demanding exercises in the summer heat, occurred Wednesday, and it was an encouraging sign for the Wildcats as they began their journey toward the season opener against South Dakota next month.
Freshmen and newcomers, unfamiliar with the harsh demands of K-State football practices, often struggle with the opening test and require time to build stamina. It has quickly convinced many past players to redshirt. This year, they are fit.
Senior cornerback Morgan Burns, a product of Trinity Academy, was not surprised.
With close to a full roster on campus for summer school and a handful of freshmen enrolling a semester early, he saw more competition than usual from newcomers during offseason workouts.
"You always love it when a freshman comes in and pushes you in individual drills," Burns said. "That happened a lot this summer. Our seniors and veterans had to work to win."
Freshman quarterback Alex Delton, of Hays, said K-State’s older players let him know about the conditioning test months ago, and he worked hard to make sure he could pass.
"I have been here now eight months and I feel like this is my home away from home," Delton said. "The people here are great. I can’t complain about my college experience so far at all. There is a bit of an adjustment in responsibility and getting used to more details, but the physical stuff has not been an issue."
Many of his teammates feel the same way and proved themselves immediately by acing a test that is often graded with a curve.
"I thought we got off to a great start on the first day," Snyder said. "Our youngsters are invested in meetings all day and practices and running the conditioning test. There is a lot of stuff. It is a long, long day.
"I was really pleased in the meetings at night, when they are tired and they have been on their legs and running, they have been in another bunch of meetings as well, their focus is great, their eyes are on the speakers, they are paying attention and absorbing an awful lot of information from an awful lot of people.
"I appreciated that great start."