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Zenger Remembers Roots

By Mark Janssen
 
 
The visit was short, but enjoyed. Sheahon Zenger returned home earlier this month and stopped by the Vanier Football Complex to say "howdy" to old friends.
 
"Coming back to Kansas State is that warm cozy feeling you get when you put on that old sweatshirt," said Zenger, who has served as the Director of Athletics at Illinois State for the last five years. "This is a home to me. Between my wife (the former Pam McAnarney) and I, and our extended families, I think we have around 50 degrees from Kansas State."
 
A 1988 graduate of K-State, Zenger's story is one of those right place, right time tales.
 
He had helped with the Manhattan High School freshman program in the fall of 1988 and had just taken a job as a graduate assistant for the Drake football program.
 
At the same time, an assistant coach from Iowa by the name of Bill Snyder was being hired to be the head football coach at Kansas State. In putting together his first staff, Snyder hired Nick Quataro, who just happened to be the head coach at ... Drake.
 
"I got a phone call from Nick asking if I'd like to come back to K-State and I couldn't say yes fast enough," said Zenger. "For me, it was a case of fate stepping in."
 
Zenger recalls interviewing for two positions - assistant recruiting coach and assistant to the administrative assistant.
 
The positions formed into one, with Zenger joking, "I quickly learned that the more words in a title the more low down the totem pole it is."
 
At 23 years of age and without a lick of collegiate experience, Zenger admits, "I was scared to death, but it was an opportunity of a lifetime. Every position I've taken since then has been connected somehow with that first job."
 
Of his first interview with this Snyder fellow, Zenger said, "I remember him being very stoic ... all business. He was very father-like."
 
Zenger joined a first-year Snyder staff that included veterans Bob Cope and Del Miller but also unheralded youngsters like Bob Stoops and Dana Dimel.
 
"Looking back, that staff had so much energy, so many hopes and dreams and a tireless work ethic," said Zenger. "We were so young, we didn't know better than to believe we could turn this thing around. Bobby Cope knew how tough it would be, and Del Miller knew, but outside of those two, I'm not sure the rest of us had a clue of what it was going to take and that was probably good."
 
In 1989, K-State won one game, five wins came in 1990, seven more in 1991 and eventually the run of 11 consecutive bowl appearances from 1993 through 2003.
 
"It was a job well done by many, many, many people with Coach Snyder at the tip of the spear every step of the way," said Zenger.