By Kelly McHugh
Two decades ago, K-State football's new wide receiver coach Andre Coleman was a member of a Wildcat football team that made K-State history.
He played on the field of Bill Snyder Family Stadium back when it was simply KSU Stadium, and back when the program's culture was turned around - when a winning mentality was instilled in Manhattan.
Playing wide receiver for the Wildcats, he helped K-State accomplish great things from 1990-93, and now, returning to Manhattan after being an assistant coach the last three season at Youngstown State and playing five years in the NFL, he's ready to accomplish even more greatness as a Wildcat.
Plus, he said it's nice to be back in the family-first environment of his alma mater.
"Coach Snyder emphasized family way back then, so it's nothing new to me," Coleman said about his days playing for the hall of fame coach. "It's always been a family atmosphere. It's always been 'protect your brother,' and that's the mentality that we've always had. It's growing stronger now, which is a good thing, but it's always been here."
Coleman left a legacy at K-State from 1990-93 after accumulating 3,443 all-purpose yards, including 1,556 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 95 receptions and 1,458 kickoff-return yards on 60 returns. He still sits in the top 10 of 13 offensive and return categories.
"When I got here our first year, we won like five or six games and it was huge for Manhattan, but we weren't satisfied at all," Coleman explained. "We wanted to continue to win games, and I think what happened was we developed a culture here. We set the bar pretty high because we weren't happy when we won five games, then we won seven games, and everyone in Manhattan was ecstatic, but we weren't happy winning seven games."
In 1992, K-State went 5-6 (2-5 in Big 8 play) and Coleman said his team wasn't satisfied with that result. So his senior year, in 1993, things began to change, and K-State finished its season with a 52-17 win over Wyoming in the 1993 Copper Bowl - the Wildcats' first ever bowl victory.
"Then we won nine games," Coleman said. "My senior year we were 9-2-1, and we still felt like we should have won those other three games. That mentality became part of the culture. One of Coach Snyder's 16 goals is 'Expect to Win.' We didn't think about the previous history of Kansas State, we just knew we could win. We had been winning and that's what the expectations were, and I think it became a culture."
That winning mentality became a culture that is still instilled in the K-State football program today, and for Coleman, it became a culture that he carried near and dear to his heart as he continued his career in football after K-State.
Coleman was drafted in the third round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers where he played wide receiver from 1994-96. He went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks in 1997 and the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1997-98.
Coleman's rookie year in the NFL he was a member of the only San Diego Chargers team to ever make it to a Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXIX), and he made K-State history when he became the first Wildcat to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
"It's the only time the Chargers, to this day, have ever been to the Super Bowl, and I scored a touchdown," Coleman said.
The Chargers went on to lose 49-26 to the San Francisco 49ers, and Coleman said his winning mentality, adapted at K-State, kicked in immediately.
"I didn't think about it at the time - how I scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl and how I broke a record - I just wanted to win," he explained. "It didn't really sink in until years later, and now, when Super Bowl time comes in January and they start showing replays of all previous Super Bowls and you see that highlight every year, then you start to think, 'Wow, I guess that was a pretty big deal.'"
Coleman's experience playing in the NFL has helped him in becoming the coach and leader on the field he is today. K-State junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett said when training with Coleman, his NFL experience is something he and his teammates look up to.
"With Coach Coleman, he was where we want to be," Lockett said. "He went to play in the league, he played in a Super Bowl and ran a kickoff return back, so being able to hear some of the things that he says, and we're actually doing some of the things that the Chargers did while he was there, just being able to listen to him and take in what he says is something that's really helping us grow."
Knowing what it takes to play at the next level, Coleman said he uses his past experiences as a tool to be the best coach he can be today.
"I think being a player, understanding what motivated me, having the opportunity to play at the professional level for several years and having the opportunity to see how other professionals learn, I was able to soak up a lot and learn a lot," Coleman explained. "That's why I'm here, to help these guys develop into the best student-athletes they can be. All of my experiences throughout my life, anything that I can use, whether that's football related or life related, I try and use that to help them be in a better position."
Combining his familiarity with the program, his professional football experiences and his knowledge of coaching, Coleman is ready to begin his career as a part of the K-State coaching staff.
And when it comes to his biggest goal with the program, there's no holding back - Coleman still has that winning mentality instilled when he played under Snyder.
"My biggest goal is for our team to win every game," Coleman smiled and glanced around his office. "I think that these guys have worked hard. I don't think there are many programs in the country that work as hard as our kids. That's the one step that our program is missing. We've won Big 12 Championships, we've gone to BCS Bowl games, we've gotten close to getting to the big dance, winning it all, so that would be my goal - to win them all and get the chance to play for the national title.
That'd be a great way to end the story for Coach Snyder, wouldn't it?"
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.