On Nov. 21, 2009 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a quarterback led his high school team to a 35-0 victory in his senior state championship game. This player only threw for 96 yards, but ran for 63 yards with three touchdowns. He had no big time college football scholarship offers on the table.
Three years later, that quarterback – Jake Waters – has found success at K-State that some thought was impossible.
After the three-sport star Waters was not recruited out of high school, he chose to stay in his hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa and play quarterback at Iowa Western Community College.
“He’s such a competitor, and whatever sport he’s in, that’s his main concern,” said Iowa Western CC head coach Scott Strohmeier. “He never really got to go to any camps, so people kind of (thought), ‘Is football really the most important thing to him?’ or whatever. I don’t know what they were thinking, but the kid can play.”
His Reivers playing career didn’t get off to a flying start, however. He was redshirted because of a knee injury in his first year.
In his second season, he was thrown into the fire as the Reivers’ starting quarterback.
“It took him a little time because he’s never not been successful,” Strohmeier said. “I mean, if you look at his high school career, you look at all the sports that he’s played, he’s always won. So, he had to learn early on how to handle some bad things. Not that he would get flustered, but he was not used to not having success.”
Once settled, Waters experienced great success while playing for the Reivers. His team won the national championship during his sophomore season and also tallied a 21-2 record in his two seasons at quarterback. He was also named the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2012.
At the conclusion of his time in Council Bluffs, recruiting picked up and it was a heated battle that came down to Penn State and K-State.
On Dec. 13, 2012, Waters announced his commitment to K-State.
Before Waters made his decision, K-State fans had already assumed former K-State quarterback Daniel Sams would be the next starter.
The tides changed, however. Prior to last season’s opening game against North Dakota State, Waters was named the starter by head coach Bill Snyder.
Despite being given the starting title, it was a constant battle as both quarterbacks split duty until later in the season.
“Last year, every game, every practice was a brand new thing,” Waters said. “I didn’t know what to expect or what game day was like. I didn’t know anything about it.”
After six games of quarterback competition, the Wildcats gave Waters better grip of the offense and the decision paid off with an 6-1 finish.
“He was kind of clunky the first year, but he won the job,” Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com senior college football writer, said. “I think he’s smart, he’s fast, he’s accurate, he has that ‘it’ factor. I think when you study under Bill Snyder and you show the dedication he has, the sky’s the limit.”
Expectations are through the roof for the Wildcats and Waters as the 2014-15 season continues to unfold. If history repeats itself, it will be a special season for K-State. The last four quarterbacks that returned for a second season under Snyder—Michael Bishop, Jonathan Beasley, Ell Roberson and Collin Klein—each won 11 games.
“What’s not to like?” Iowa State coach Paul Rhodes said. “It’s obvious (Waters is) a great leader. He has the ability to run the football. He’s tough. He throws it accurate, and can beat you with his arm in the passing game.”
Waters fell victim to a tipped-pass interception in his senior season debut last Saturday, but was efficient for the night, completing 19 of 28 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown.
His crown jewel of the night was a touchdown pass to All-American wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
“I told Jake after the game we had your receiver, Lockett, locked down on that touchdown pass,” Lumberjack coach Clint Conque said. “It was either put it right there, or it was pass interference. It was just a great throw. You could tell they have spent a lot of time together over the summer and the last couple years. They have a chance to be very dynamic.”