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Special Memories with North Texas

By Mark Janssen
 
Below are a few notes heading into Saturday's 3 p.m. Kansas State game at North Texas.
 
STORY WORTH RETELLING: Bill Snyder was on the North Texas staff under coach Hayden Fry for three years from 1976-78 when the Mean Green won 7, 10 and 9 games for the most successful three-year stretch in NT history.

Immediately after being hired, Snyder and his wife saw cars around the North Texas basketball arena, so they decided to support their new school by attending a game. Approaching the ticket window, they learned tickets were going to cost $20.
 
"We thought, 'This is crazy. This is big-time athletics,' " Snyder said. "But we were feeling better about life than we should have, so we bought the tickets and went in to find our seats."
 
On the arena floor were rows and rows of chairs, and upon finding an usher, they learned that their tickets were for a Willie Nelson concert.
 
As Snyder tells it, "Now, we were Californians. We were new on this block. We didn't even know who Willie Nelson was, so we got our money back and went home."
 
THAT FIRST WIN:
To most, the 1989 season appeared to be more of the same for K-State football. The 'Cats were drilled by Arizona State in Snyder's debut, 31-0, and then lost games to Northern Iowa and Northern Illinois to fall to 0-3 and extend the dreaded streaks to 16 losses in a row and 30 straight games without a win - 0-29-1.
 
Up next on Sept. 30, 1989, was North Texas State at KSU Stadium. Again, the Wildcats trailed 17-13 going into the last play of the game at the Mean Green's 12-yard-line.
 
Snyder reflects, "I remember Frankie Hernandez saying, 'We can run this particular thing.' I said, 'OK, if that's what you think you can do, go for it.' "
 
Carl Straw rifled the pass to Hernandez in the corner of the north end zone with Straw only hearing, but not seeing, the victory.
 
"I got belted on the chin. It really hurt, but when the crowd stormed the field I felt no pain," Straw said. "When I knew Frank caught the ball, all I wanted to do was laugh, cry and scream, but nothing came out of my mouth."
 
Of the win, Hernandez said, "Nobody was happy with a 1-10 record, but that win gave us a taste of what victory felt like."
 
POWELL A CANDIDATE: Kansas State running back/kick returner William Powell is one of 45 players nationally and seven from the Big 12 Conference to be named a candidate for the inaugural Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation's top college football player who began his career as a walk-on.
 
Powell, who is one of just two running backs up for the award, currently leads the nation with a kickoff return average of 34.6 yards, thanks in part to four returns covering more than 50 yards, including a 100-yarder at Baylor and a 62-yarder against Texas. His average is 0.2 yards per return shy of the Big 12 record of 34.8 by Oklahoma State's Chris Massey in 2001.
  
A native of Duncanville, Texas, Powell also has averaged 10.9 yards per carry at running back and has scored four touchdowns on just 23 carries.
  
Powell, who transferred to K-State in 2009 from Navarro Junior College, began his Wildcat career as walk-on before earning a scholarship just days prior to this season's game with Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium.
 
In honor of Brandon Burlsworth, former University of Arkansas walk-on and All-American offensive lineman, the award will be given to the collegiate player who began their career as a walk-on and has shown outstanding performance on the field. Nominees must have begun their first season of participation with a Division 1 (FBS) football program without financial aid of any kind from their athletic department.
 
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: K-State's annual awards night will be on Sunday, Dec. 12, in McCain Auditorium at 7 p.m.
 
Presentations will be made by University President Dr. Kirk Schulz, Director of Athletics John Currie and the K-State coaching staff, among others. A video presentation will also be shown in recognition of the Wildcats' 2010 season. The event is free to the public and interested parties may contact the McCain Auditorium Box Office at (785) 532-6428 to reserve tickets. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.