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Competitors and Friends, Sams and Waters fight for common goal

*Don't forget about the K-State Fall Football Kickoff tonight at 5 pm, click here for more information!

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August 17, 2013
By Kelly McHugh

From the outside looking in, it might be easy to assume the competition between K-State quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters for a starting role on the Wildcat roster is completely cutthroat. 

It's easy to picture two guys battling before Bill Snyder with hopes of filling the shoes Collin Klein left after his record-breaking collegiate career. However, with these two, that's just not the case. While during practice the two are fierce competitors, their relationship on the sidelines is different than what many may assume.

Sams and Waters are friends, and while they may have their differences both on and off the field, they have one major thing in common: they both want what is best for their team.

This means they are always looking help each other out. 

When Waters arrived at K-State last spring, he and Sams decided instead of each man looking out for themselves, they would grow together with the common goal of making K-State a better football team.

"I feel like a lot of people outside of the program look at us as if we are in a 'dog-eat-dog' competition," Sams said, "an, 'I need to take more reps coach is watching' type of relationship, but really, of course we're competing, but at the same time we're there to help each other get better."

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Sams said growing up in Slidell, La., all he knew was that "dog-eat-dog" mentality. He said he looked out for himself and focused on improving his own skills rather than looking at the bigger picture. 

When Sams arrived at K-State, though, he quickly realized there was something different about the Wildcats' football program, and his old mentality just wouldn't do.

"When I first got here, I was kind of a loner," Sams said, "but I learned pretty quickly you can't be a good quarterback to your team like that. So when Jake got here, I had open arms, just like Collin did (for me) when he knew I was coming to try and take his spot. Being around what Coach Snyder teaches, that family aspect, I think that makes us close, and that's what makes this competition even better."

While Sams has had the privilege of getting to know the team's offense after spending the past two seasons with K-State, Waters, a junior transfer from Iowa Western Community College, said without Sams it would have taken him much longer to learn the Wildcat offensive system.

"The first day I met him he said 'It's not a dog-eat-dog competition,'" Waters explained and glanced at Sams sitting to his left. "He's here to get better, and I really respect that. We're all a family here, so if one person does well, you get excited and you get happy even if you're competing against them. If he makes a good throw, you get excited as a teammate."

The two sat side-by-side. They cracked jokes and talked about workouts. Sams glanced down at his phone. Sometimes the comments fans make on Twitter can get a little crazy, but while many are taking sides, the two deal with the animosity together.

"The fans, I leave that to them to do the debating as to who is going to start," Sams laughed. "I like to look at it, I love looking at it, but I won't get in on it with the comments. I had a fan ask me what I thought about Jake taking my spot, and they actually mentioned him with his name. We didn't go back at it. It's just fun to us.  We just worry about what we do on the field." 

Jake agreed, the pressure to succeed does not come from social media for these two - it comes from within.

"We get Tweets all the time," Waters said. "We have some people who want me to start and some people who want him to start, so we can't really pay too much attention to that. We put the most pressure on ourselves. There's not going to be one fan, or anyone, that's going to expect more than we do ourselves."

Their teammates offensive lineman B.J. Finney and wide receiver Tyler Lockett also said the relationship between Sams and Waters is something special. 

"When you look at Daniel and you look at Jake, they're both pushing each other," Lockett said. "Ever since Jake came in Daniel was helping him out. Everybody wants to play, but it's about family and that's one thing that both of them are learning right now. As long as Jake is pushing Daniel and Daniel is pushing Jake, then all they want is whoever wins the battle, that that person is at their best. So that's what they're doing, they're helping each other. There's no envying, there's no hatred or jealousy, it's all out of love."

Finney also said he has noticed improvement in both Sams and Waters this past year and the competition is something that is helping them both grow, whether that is watching film or helping each other make the right reads on the field.

"During the spring you saw them in film room together a lot, and then on the field, throwing the ball, doing all sorts of stuff," Finney explained. "They've both been working with each other very closely. It's really cool to see guys that are competing for a starting spot working together as closely as they are. They aren't out to get each other like some people think. It's not nasty, it's a brotherhood and they're brothers. You can see that." 

While the two have similarities, such as their versatility at the quarterback position, perhaps their pasts, their lives before coming to K-State, make up the biggest difference between the two.

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Waters, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, grew up in Council Grove, Iowa. He played football fro St. Albert High School where he helped lead St. Albert to two Iowa Class 1A State Championships. 

After his high school years, he decided to stay in his hometown and play football for Iowa Western Community College. He led the Reivers to win the 2012 NJCAA National Championship after a perfect 12-0 season.  Waters finished the 2012 season with 3501 yards and had 39 touchdowns.

"The biggest difference (between Iowa Western and K-State) is the knowledge and the amount that they put on the quarterbacks here," Waters said. "I'm kind of trying to adjust on the fly. I've got to get everyone in the right position, the right play form, and I really didn't have to do that before so that's been one of the bigger challenges I've had to deal with."

Waters' debut appearance in Bill Snyder Family Stadium took place last April as he played in the Purple-White Spring game, connecting on 18 of his 28 passes for 249 total yards and three touchdowns.

Sams, 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, grew up in Slidell, La. He played football for Salman High School, leading his team to a Louisiana Class 4A No. 1 state ranking and was known as one of New Orleans metro area's most versatile athletes.

The Louisiana high school star redshirted his freshman year as a Wildcat in 2011. Though he spend the 2012 season playing backup for Heisman Trophy candidate, Collin Klein, Sams saw action in eight games, threw for 55 yards and rushed for 235.

Also performing well in the Spring Game, Sams connected 18 of his 28 passes and finished with 321 total yards and four touchdowns. 

"Yea I have the advantage of the miles that I've played here, but that's not something that I try to rely on," Sams said about having prior experience with K-State. "I'm with Jake every day, and I see how fast he's picking up the offense and the throws he makes. But, as far as being on the field last year, and as far as those games, I feel that it let the rest of the offense know that I can control and be in a game situation and that they can trust me."

 While the competition is strengthening them both as football players, it is a competition that will continue to help K-State on its quest for greatness, and regardless of who starts at quarterback on Aug. 30, both Sams and Waters agree that having this competition has bettered them and their teammates.

"The team, they're not na├»ve, they know we're competing," Sams said when asked if he thought his competition with Waters would also effect his teammates. "They're watching both of us and when they see both of us giving 100 percent, hopefully it's making them want to do the same and catching them to the same speed." 

Come August 30, all anticipation on who will assume the role of starter will come to an end, but despite which quarterback is chosen, the family first, brotherhood mentality of the team will not change.

"Whoever gets the starting spot, everyone is going to rally around that guy," Sams said. 

Waters nodded in agreement and added, "It's been like that since day one."


FALL FOOTBALL KICKOFF INFORMATION:

Fans will have the opportunity to check out the 2013 K-State football team and hear from Coach Snyder and the Wildcat Captains tonight beginning at 5 pm at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Fall Football Kickoff at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

 While autograph sessions will take place after the practice, fans are encouraged to each bring their own item and limit one autograph per fan.

Click here for more information about the event



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, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.