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With All in Place, Let's Play Ball!

By Mark Janssen

It was a normal summer day for Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder in his old, but refurbished, office at the Vanier Football Complex.
 
Some 90-plus degrees outdoors, the soon-to-be 71-year-old head coach was in uniform - grey suit, white shirt and yellow patterned tie on this Friday noon hour.

Unlike a year ago when he was making his return to the Wildcat program and his office was bare, grandkids have since decorated scores of shelves with favorite family pictures and a collection of coaching souvenirs. To the side of his desk rested a purple and white Callaway golf bag. It went unused this summer and, for now, it will remain unused.
 
"I missed it a little," Snyder said of golf, "but it's easier to miss when you really can't play the game."
 
While there was room to squeeze a couple dozen 18-hole rounds into his schedule as a retired coach during the summers of 2006, '07 and '08, Snyder's back to being the coach of the Wildcats, which, for him, carries a 12-month work description.
 
"It's the only way I know how to coach," said Snyder, a veteran of 18 years as a head coach and 14 more as a collegiate assistant. "I'm not saying it's the right way, but it's the only way I know how to coach."
 
Pausing, Snyder said, "Now, last year I didn't even take part in a family vacation, but this summer I said, 'That's crazy.'"
 
So, the Snyder family, numbering 19 strong, found an island home at the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri for a handful of days of frolicking in the water on jet skies and above it on parasails.
 
"I didn't do that this year, but I have before," Snyder said of floating through the air, supported only by a flimsy multi-colored parachute. "It's really kind of neat."
 
Instead of playing an active role in the festivities, Snyder sat back and enjoyed the chaos of his five children, eight grandkids and one great-grandchild ... all while thinking Wildcat football much of the time.
 
Another reason Snyder didn't get too active was the fragile left knee that has a torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament from being clipped by a reserve offensive lineman in a blind-side accident on the practice field this past spring.
 
"I talked about having surgery, but just put it off and now it's too late," reasoned Snyder. "I'm fortunate because I haven't had too much pain and haven't been as restrictive as in some of the cases you hear about. I was just lucky."
 
As he repeated a number of times last year after a three-year break from the coaching world, Snyder said that the summer was filled with "ah-ha" moments. Times during the day when minute attention to detail moments popped up that needed addressed.
 
"It's a continuous learning process no matter how many years you're in the business. There are just reminders of what we did in the past that allowed us to have the success that we had at times," said Snyder. "I'm still going through the process of regaining some of the knowledge that I had at an earlier time."
 
A portion of the summer blur included decorating decisions and making sure all items were in place when the Wildcats arrived on Wednesday. That included new desks and office furniture for the assistant coaches, new purple carpeting throughout the Vanier Complex and a collection of new video screens advertising all the historical K-State players who have made it into the NFL.
 
Chuckling, Snyder said on this mid-July day, "I'm having daily conversations with people I've never met in my life, giving reminders of the due date for completing the projects. It has to be done by August 2nd or 3rd, and they know that. The players report on Wednesday, August 4th."
 
With spiffy new purple carpet rolled out weeks before, a couple dozen desks and other office furnishings hit the Vanier Football Complex on Monday, and after 48 chaotic hours, all were in place on Tuesday, meeting Snyder's August 3 deadline ... by hours, if not minutes.
 
The first of 29 preseason workouts took place on Thursday. NCAA rules restrict teams to one on-field session for each of the first five days before the teams can alternate two-a-days with single practices until the start of the season. Practices, and as Snyder says, "There will be a lot of meetings ... a lot of meetings."
 
He added of each workout, "Our goal is always the same. We want to get better in every aspect of the game every day."