Sproles, Newman Reminisce on Wildcat Past
It is a future promising greatness and built on tradition.
However, while the future is exciting, fans also had the opportunity during the game to remember the past as two special former Wildcats served as the game's honorary coaches.
Current NFL stars Terence Newman (Cincinnati Bengals) and Darren Sproles (Philadelphia Eagles) spent the weekend back in Manhattan after years away.
"It's an honor for them to bring former players back each year," said Newman, "but to actually invite me and Darren to be honorary coaches; that's really special."
Newman, who said he hadn't been back to Manhattan in four years, said the growth and expansion of the K-State football program was something he is very proud to be a part of.
"Oh man, it's amazing," laughed Newman. "Even just seeing the training table, the whole complex, it's completely different than when we were here. We're relative dinosaurs now a days."
Sproles agreed, things have definitely changed in the Little Apple since his days at K-State nearly a decade ago.
"This is my first time back in about six years, so a lot has changed," began Sproles. "There's a lot of new stuff around. They took me on tours, and I loved it. Especially when they get done with the Vanier building - that's going to be really great."
A 2003 All-American and Wildcat legend, Sproles stamped his name in the K-State record book as he set 23 different school records in his four years with the program. He helped guide K-State to a 2003 Big 12 Championship after leading the nation with 1,986 rushing yards. That same season, he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and garnered a spot on the All-Big 12 first team.
"Coach Snyder always taught me, 'Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do,'" Sproles said, thinking back to his days as a Wildcat. "He pretty much just told me to have a chip on my shoulder all the time."
Sproles finished his K-State career with 4,979 rushing yards - a school record by a whopping 1,986 yards - and 45 touchdowns. He started every game his junior and senior years, and, along with earning First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2003, he also earned Second Team All-Big 12 accolades in 2002 and 2004.
Sproles will begin his 10th NFL season in 2014 with the Philadelphia Eagles as he was recently traded to the team this offseason after playing three years with the New Orleans Saints. Sproles said he made the move to Philadelphia just last week and began training with the team last Monday.
"In the first week it's been pretty cool," began Sproles. "I love the offense and what they bring to the table. Playing for (Philadelphia coach) Chip Kelly is going to be exciting... They like to spread everything out and that really helps me out, it puts a lot of holes in the defense."
A 2002 consensus All-American, Newman is in his third season with the Cincinnati Bengals and his 12th NFL season overall. In 2002, Newman was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year along with a selection to the All-Big 12 First Team after carding 54 tackles, five interceptions and 14 pass deflections.
"A favorite K-State memory, I think it'd probably be senior day," said Newman as he stood on the sidelines of the spring game and glanced over at the tunnel he once ran out of. "Coming out with all the seniors and just being recognized for that last time; knowing that we all came in together and were all leaving together and the reception that we got on that day, that's memorable for sure."
On what he learned at K-State and has carried with him during his NFL career, Newman said, "Just staying humble and working for everything you've got; just because you've tasted success doesn't mean you're going to automatically continue it. You've just got to keep working hard. Being an older guy, one of the things that keeps me driven is trying to continue to keep competing with these younger guys."
Finally, Newman credits much of where he is at today to head coach Bill Snyder. Snyder, who will begin his 23rd season as the Wildcats' head coach in 2014, has proven himself as more than just a coach throughout the years, and he only continues to impact young people today.
"That's pops right there," Newman said. He smiled and pointed to Snyder standing just a few feet away on the sidelines. "Honestly, I came here as a young boy and I left as a young man. He helped me transition, big time. I owe a lot of my success and my attitude to him. He helped mold me into the man that I am today."
Philadelphia Eagles' running back and former K-State standout Darren Sproles speaks during the Ahearn Fund's 30th Annual Powercat Auction at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas on April 25, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
*Middle right photo caption: Terence Newman is one of two honorary coaches during the Purple and White Spring Game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on April 26, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)