For 23 seasons, a culture has developed around K-State football that personifies its head coach almost perfectly. Whether it be inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the Vanier Football Complex or K-State campus and the surrounding community, players have gravitated toward the teachings and styles of the 75-year-old future Hall of Famer.
As the 2014-15 season nears its end and the makings of the 2015-16 season continue to come together, commitments eyes light up knowing the program they’re going to be joining in the future.
“My relationship with the coaches is one that started back during my sophomore year and it has grown through the years,” Bishop Carroll High School running back Denzel Goolsby said. “I’m able to carry on that family tradition and automatically play for a winning program and a team that has a lot of tradition. You’re also playing for a legend in Bill Snyder, so who doesn’t want that?”
Goolsby, a Wichita, Kansas native, won’t be the first member of his family to play in a Wildcat uniform. His cousin Brian Goolsby was a fullback under Snyder from 1995-98 and safety Jarard Milo, who is also his cousin, spent time in the program from from 2011-12.
The two-start athlete reportedly turned down offers from Kansas, Iowa State, Illinois State and Northern Illinois to be a part of the K-State commitment list.
Scott Frantz, an offensive lineman out of Lawrence Free State High School, represents another piece to Snyder’s in-state recruiting puzzle. The three-star offensive tackle turned down offers from Marshall, Idaho, Miami, Florida, Kansas and Minnesota.
“I took an unofficial visit the day I committed,” Frantz said. “That was when I knew I wanted to be there. Coach (Taylor) Braet planned out my visit perfectly and all the coaches seemed like they really cared and everyone knew I was down there. They’d stop by and say ‘hi’ to me and it was such a great atmosphere. It’s pretty special to me and that’s why I committed.”
Goolsby and Frantz, who are just two names of a 13-member recruiting class, may not have names that sit at the top of the national recruiting rankings. However, they fit the profile of the “Bill Snyder mold” and although they yet to step foot on campus, the Wildcat persona is already present.
“If you’re dealing with recruiting evaluators, they kind of want to refer to it as the ‘Snyder magic’ and how he can turn these kids into something,” Powercat Illustrated publisher, owner and editor Tim Fitzgerald said. “What they don’t want to admit is they’re missing all these players. They’re not seeing what Coach Snyder sees. It’s really hard for them to explain how Coach does it.”
For GoPowercat.com assistant recruiting editor Ryan Wallace, Frantz and quarterback commitment Alex Delton out of Hays, Kansas represent two key aspects of the 2015-16 class.
“They’re two of the guys who have kind of been the ‘pillars’ of this 2015 class,” Wallace said. “I’m excited to see how they develop within the system. Those are guys who are going to take after the Curry Sexton’s, the Collin Klein’s and Tyler Lockett’s of the world. They’re not only building things before they get into the program, but they’ll continue building and being guys everyone looks up to afterwards.”
As the lone four-star on the commitment list, Wallace said cornerback Duke Shelley has developed into a more complete player for Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia.
“When you look at film, it’s hard to deny the type of athlete that Duke Shelly is,” Wallace said. “In year’s past, he’s been kind of a human highlight for his team. This year, he has really had some challenges playing more of a ‘lock-down’ corner position to try and prove that he’s a true cornerback and not just a fast guy on a good team. He has really proven himself this year and gone up against some really good players.”
Although Snyder and his staff make a habit of finding players that fall through the filters of other coaches across the country, Fitzgerald said it’s not because they didn’t have the opportunity to offer them as well.
“The hidden prospect is almost nil nowadays,” Fitzgerald said. “What Bill Snyder is really good at is looking at a kid that others may pass on and sees him for what they can be. That’s really Coach Snyder’s greatest gift in recruiting. He’s really good at projecting and that’s why so many of their walk-ons pan out.”
Wide receivers coach Andre Coleman is in his second year in the program and Wallace said it’s important to understand the significance of what the former Wildcat receiver has added to the Snyder recruiting mantra.
“When I talk to guys, they really admire how personable Andre is and how relaxed he is about the situation at K-State,” Wallace said. “He doesn’t go in and force feed K-State on kids and doesn’t try to say this is why we’re better than Georgia. He’s very confident in the product that he sells because he’s so confident in Bill Snyder. It makes kids relaxed in talking to him and they end up not even talking about football.”
Coleman’s fingerprints can be found throughout the commitments from the Eastern seaboard. The list includes Georgia high school products such as Shelley, wide receiver Isaiah Zuber, linebacker Mohamed Barry and athlete Kalin Heath.
“If you’d ask national guys who are able to travel coast-to-coast to watch these high schools, they’d tell you that Georgia is up there with Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas and Ohio as one of the top recruiting beds,” Wallace said. “You can find some of the best talent there and having a guy like Andre who can go in and identify with those players is huge.”
Randy Withers, who specializes in Missouri, K-State and Kansas for Rivals.com as well as high school and junior college recruiting in Kansas or Missouri, said players are succeeding at K-State because they believe in what is being taught on the south side of Kimball Avenue in between Denison and College and the campus as a whole.
“Beyond the Vanier Football Complex and the football program itself with the student body, it feels like a large family,” Withers said. “They can go there and people care about you. Kids keep telling me, ‘I feel like the coaches care about not just my development as a player, but as a person and what I can be away from football.’ That’s important because they should feel like they matter.”