SE: Hall of Fame Spotlight: K-State Football Greats
On Jan. 29, K-State
Athletics honored a group of 10 outstanding individuals with their induction
into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame. This group marks the 11th class in
school history and was honored at an induction ceremony before being recognized
at halftime of the men’s basketball win against Ole Miss in Bramlage Coliseum
on Jan. 30. Next week, K-State Sports Extra will publish its final Hall of Fame
Spotlight (featuring inductee Max Moss). You can check out all of K-State
Sports Extra’s Hall of Fame Spotlights by clicking the links following today’s
Entering into your alma mater’s hall of fame is special, regardless of how it happens, but entering in with former teammates and coaches, now that’s really special.
This year’s K-State Athletics Hall of Fame class featured three former Wildcat football players in Sean Snyder (1991-92), Martin Gramatica (1994-98) and Michael Bishop (1997-98). The Hall of Fame football trio’s time at K-State overlapped and, together, they created many, many special memories on the gridiron.
“It means the world to me; as a kicker, you never expect to be in any sort of hall of fame,” said Gramatica with a smile the day of the induction ceremony. “It’s an honor to go in to the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame regardless of who you go in with, but to go in with Sean – he was like my older brother here – and to go in with Michael, who got our team over the hump, it means a lot to me.”
Snyder transferred from Iowa to K-State in 1991 and made an immediate impact on the Wildcats’ special teams unit. He was selected K-State’s Special Teams MVP in 1991 and 1992. During his two-year career, he broke the K-State single-season record with 3,572 punting yards in 1992, while he is second all-time in career punting average (42.96). After recording a 44.65-yard average in 1992 – still a K-State single-season record – Snyder was named a Consensus First Team All-American and was selected to play in the Senior Bowl.
“It’s obviously a very humbling honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Snyder. “The thing that’s very special about it is that this is a really neat class. To be with guys like Michael and Martin – and obviously Martin because I coached him, worked with him and we stayed in contact over all the years, same thing with Michael – it’s just a great class with great people in it and that says an awful lot.”
Snyder went on to play two years in the NFL (1993 with the Phoenix Cardinals and 1994 with the San Diego Chargers) before returning to K-State as a part-time assistant coach in 1994. He has climbed the ranks during his time at K-State and currently holds the position of Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator.
Gramatica came to K-State in 1994, the same time Snyder returned to Manhattan after his stint in the NFL. The LaBelle, Florida, native grew up playing soccer and never kicked a football until LaBelle High School was in search of a kicker his senior year. His talent as a kicker, though it was just for one season, received national attention.
“The Florida schools didn’t want me because I didn’t have enough experience,” explained Gramatica. “So, obviously I wanted to stay close to home, but when I took my visit to K-State, I felt right at home. I met Coach (Bill) Snyder, the staff and some of the players and I knew it was where I wanted to go.”
Though he had verbally committed to Notre Dame, Gramatica knew K-State was the right fit for him and signed with the Wildcats. During his time as a Wildcat, Gramatica became a Lou Groza Award winner (1997) and was a two-time Consensus All-American (1997-98). During his senior season of 1998, Gramatica set the NCAA record for scoring by a kicker with 135 points and set the NCAA record for longest field goal without a tee after blasting a 65-yarder against Northern Illinois.
“I think Martin was one of the greatest kickers I ever played with,” said Bishop. “He was great for the university. Any time that we couldn’t get it into the end zone, it didn’t matter if we were 65 yards away, if we couldn’t get seven points, you knew we’d get three.”
While Gramatica said Coach Snyder was a father figure to him and his teammates, Gramatica looked at Sean Snyder as a brother.
“I remember the first time I saw him kicking,” said Gramatica about Sean. “I didn’t know who he was, but I just saw this guy just killing the ball. We immediately we hit it off. He wanted to help everybody out, he was part of the group, and I learned a lot from him. It was his work ethic that stuck with me, seeing how hard he worked and what it too, those things stuck.
“Before K-State, I played soccer, so we didn’t know what a weight room was,” laughed Gramatica. “With soccer we jut ran, so to see Sean and how hard he worked in the weight room, how much time he put into it, that opened my eyes to realize what I needed to do to get where I needed to go.”
Snyder’s influence certainly helped Gramatica at K-State and beyond as he went on to play 10 years in the NFL.
“There was nothing that he wouldn’t do,” said Snyder about Gramatica. “He was extremely talented and, to me, that’s kind of where the bond really started. He had a passion for the game and desire to be great at it. There are a lot of guys who work hard, but how many guys are wiling to push themselves past the limit? That’s what was so special about him.
Though he wasn’t on special teams, Snyder admired Bishop in the same way he admired Gramatica. How could you not admire an explosive, dynamic player like Michael Bishop?
“Michael was one of those guys who’d run through a brick wall to score,” said Snyder. “I’m very, very passionate about Michael. He was very unselfish in everything he gave to the program. He was a team guy all the way around; he fought tooth and nail. He was what the program was about.”
In Bishop’s time at K-State, he, along with Gramatica, helped the Wildcat football program to its first-ever No. 1 national ranking as a senior in 1998, and, in that same year, he was the Heisman Trophy runner up and the Davey O’Brien Award winner. A 1998 Consensus All-American, Bishop still holds the K-State single-season passing efficiency record with a 159.6 rating, while his single-season total offense (3,592) record was broken just two seasons ago.
Bishop helped K-State break a 30-year losing streak to Nebraska in 1998 – a favorite memory of his, he says – where he became the first player in Big 12 history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100. In his two seasons in the Little Apple, Bishop led the Wildcats to a 22-3 record, racked up 5,715 yards of total offense and set a school record of 59 career touchdowns.
“It’s amazing, to come back and be a part of a great organization and to be a part of this great university, to be inducted into the K-State Hall of Fame, it says a lot,” said Bishop. “It’s another accomplishment that was unexpected, but now that I’m here, I can just sit back and reminisce about the good times; there were a lot more good times than bad times at K-State. It’s something I’m very proud of.”
For these three Wildcat greats, the weekend of January 29, was a special time to reminisce and remember their time – together – as Wildcats.
“Any time you can do something like this with people who went to battle with you, people who were on the field, in the locker room in good times and bad times, they share that same bond, it’s amazing,” said Bishop. “Because we all know what we went through, so to be on the stage for this great event, it’s just amazing.”
See links below for previous K-State Sports Extra Hall of Fame Spotlights: