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Waters' Confidence Reaches New Level
K-State's head coach Bill Snyder talks with Jake Waters during the game against Louisiana at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on September 7, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
July 25, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
There's no denying it - Jake Waters is the guy.
While this time last year he was still new to the K-State football program and battling for the starting quarterback position, this season he steps on to the field knowing it's his spot to fill.
This year, Waters is calm and comfortable, but most importantly, he's confident. As a matter of fact, Waters' rising confidence level was among the most popular K-State topics at Big 12 Media Days earlier this week in Dallas, Texas.
"His level of confidence has grown immensely," head coach Bill Snyder said as he sat on a podium before a room filled with media. "I think that the experience from last year has benefited him greatly, and he's embraced it. He had a rocky start in the first half of the season, but at no time did he ever stop trying to improve his plight."
Last season, Waters kicked off his Wildcat career with a rough start against North Dakota State. The transfer from Iowa Western Community College struggled early in the game and, despite throwing for 280 yards - the most by a Wildcat in a home opener since 1978 - Waters threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. The fate of the K-State quarterback situation was, once again, up in the air.
However, as the saying goes: it's not how you start, but how you finish; and Waters certainly finished the 2013 season on a high note.
Connecting 21-of-27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats' 31-14 win over Michigan at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Waters set the school's bowl record for both completions and completion percentage (77.8).
While he may have closed the season with a bang, looking back, it wasn't an easy ride.
"My journey? It's been kind of a roller coaster, I guess," said Waters. "When I first got to K-State, I was named the starter (prior to the first game) so I was on a high. Then we lost that first game and start to the season, so I was on a low. Then, we finished the season on a high. It's just been so up and down. I'm trying to get a nice, steady incline, you could say, and make this season better."
More than just talk, Waters is prepared to continue on that incline and continue to get better throughout the 2014 season.
"I definitely feel more confident," began Waters. "I've seen everything that we're going through before - workouts, practice - now I've been there; I've done that. I'm only in my second year, but I feel like I've been here longer than I have. I'm just a lot more comfortable with everything and confident knowing that I can try things out now, see if they work. The coaches trust me with that responsibility."
Confidence, trust, comfort - now add in a hard work ethic and, as Snyder said, a "tremendous value system," and you've got yourself a K-State quarterback to get excited about.
"He's one of those young guys that's always going to do everything he can and try to do the little extra to improve, become a better player and better person; he does that consistently," continued Snyder. "I think we saw the benefits of that towards the latter part of the season and hopefully it continues.
"He's just a tremendous young guy that I'm confident, up to at least this point in time, that he's done anything and everything that he can to help himself improve. I'm pretty confident that he will continue to do that."
Overall in 2013, Waters started all 13 games and earned Third Team All-Big 12 honors from Phil Steele after throwing for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns on 159-of-260 aim and rushed 118 times for 312 yards and six scores. Waters became only the 15th player in school history to record 2,000-plus passing yards and finished third in school history with a 156.8 passing efficiency rating. He also became the first Wildcat since at least 1970 to record two 70-plus yard touchdown passes in one game (74 and 79 vs. TCU).
Week after week in 2013, Waters was competing with former K-State quarterback, Daniel Sams - who has since transferred to McNeese State - for the starting position. He had to be at his best day in and day out, otherwise, he could have faced losing his spot at No. 1. It wasn't easy, but having that competition last season taught Waters lessons he won't soon forget.
"You can't take a day off, otherwise you're not going to play," he said. "Even with Daniel gone, I'm still competing with the three or four other quarterbacks in the room because I don't want to get my job taken. I came here to earn this spot, and I earned my place at Kansas State the hard way. I knew last year if I didn't play well on a Tuesday or Wednesday at practice, I might not play on Saturday.
"I've kept that approach and apply it to everything I do."
It's up to him now; it's Waters' team now - and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's a challenge that I love," Waters explained, his new confidence level shined through with every word. "This is what you want, you want to be the guy your senior year. You want to be the guy, the D1 football quarterback trying to lead your team. So I love it. I'm taking it as a challenge and I'm just ready to get started."
K-State's Jake Waters throws a pass against Iowa State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on November 2, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)