By Cole Manbeck and John Kurtz
It’s mid-July, and there’s a good chance you’re starting to get the itch for football. We’re under the 50-day mark until the season opener for Kansas State, and to help pass the time, we thought we’d do something fun to engage all of you.
John Kurtz and I put our heads together (scary thought, I know) and came up with the All-Bill Snyder Team. We have broken the groups into a First-Team Offense, First-Team Defense and First-Team Special Teams as well as a Second-Team unit for all three categories. This list is subjective and certainly up for debate, as some great players were left off. So we want your opinion. Let us know if you agree, or if you have some changes, and who those changes might be.
*Editor’s note: This list does not include players currently on the K-State roster as their body of work is not complete.
Quarterback: Michael Bishop (1997-98)
Bishop helped lead K-State to a 22-3 record, a Fiesta Bowl victory in 1997 and a No. 1-national ranking in 1998. The talented signal caller possessed one of the strongest arms in all of football and was a powerful runner. Bishop, the 1998 Davey O’Brien Award winner (given to the country’s top quarterback), led the Big 12 Conference with 2,844 passing yards and 23 touchdowns to only five interceptions during his senior season, while rushing for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 37 touchdowns in 1998 topped the Big 12 and ranked fifth nationally. Bishop, a 1998 consensus All-American, finished second in the 1998 Heisman Trophy voting, the highest a K-State player has ever finished.
Running back: Darren Sproles (2001-04)
One of the easiest decisions on this list, Sproles finished his college career with 4,979 rushing yards and ranked sixth all time in college football history in all-purpose yards. The dynamic running back, a First-Team All-American, led college football with 1,986 rushing yards in 2003, and delivered an unforgettable performance in K-State’s 35-7 victory over No. 1-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, running for 235 yards while also taking a screen pass 60 yards for a score. Sproles, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2003, ran for at least 1,300 yards in each of his last three seasons in Manhattan. He scored 45 touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards per carry during his four seasons at K-State.
Fullback: Rock Cartwright (2000-01)
Cartwright will go down as arguably the best running fullback Bill Snyder has had up to this point at K-State. The powerful fullback ran for 570 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry during his two years in Manhattan. Cartwright was also a tremendous blocker, helping pave the way for running back Josh Scobey, who rushed for 1,981 yards, 31 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry during their two seasons together in the backfield.
Wide receiver: Kevin Lockett (1993-96)
Lockett was the model of consistency during his four years at K-State. The Wildcats’ all-time leader in career receptions (207), receiving yards (3,032) and receiving touchdowns (26), Lockett was equally as good in the classroom, earning academic All-American honors in 1995 and 1996. Lockett, a First-Team all-Big 12 performer in 1996, will go down as having one of the best sets of hands Snyder ever coached.
Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson (2003-07)
Known for its success with walk-ons, Nelson is arguably K-State’s best non-scholarship player to come through the program under Snyder. The Riley County product, a consensus All-American in 2007, ranks second all-time in school history with 2,842 yards receiving. He caught 122 passes in 2007, ranking second in the country. Nelson’s 122 receptions are the most in school history for a single season. The next closest is Tyler Lockett at 81 in 2013. Nelson’s 1,606 yards receiving in 2007 is the top mark in program history, with the next closest being Lockett, who had 1,263 yards last season.
Tight end: Justin Swift (1995-98)
Swift caught 42 passes for 697 yards and six touchdowns during his K-State career. He was a favorite target of quarterback Michael Bishop. The 6-foot-4 tight end recorded 36 receptions for 609 yards in his final two seasons, averaging 16.9 yards per catch.
Offensive line: Todd Weiner (1994-97)
Weiner arrived at K-State as a 6-5, 240-pound tight end. He left approximately 60 pounds heavier as a second-team All-American and a First-Team All-Big 12 performer at left tackle. Weiner was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks and played 11 seasons in the NFL.
Offensive line: Nick Leckey (2000-03)
The only First-Team All-American on the offensive line during the Snyder era, Leckey started 41 consecutive games for the Wildcats. The former center never allowed a sack during his career and was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy (given to the country’s best center) in 2003. Leckey, who played six seasons in the NFL, was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2002 and 2003.
Offensive line: Kendyl Jacox (1994-97)
Jacox was a four-year starter at guard and center and earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors in 1997. The 6-1, 320-pounder went on to play for three NFL teams.
Offensive line: Barrett Brooks (1991-94)
Brooks, a four-year starter at left tackle, earned Second-Team All-American honors in 1994 and was an All-Big Eight Conference performer. Brooks was one of just three offensive linemen during the Snyder era to earn First or Second-Team All-American honors. Brooks played 11 seasons in the NFL.
Offensive line: Ryan Young (1996-99)
An All-Big 12 performer on the offensive line, Young shined at left tackle along the K-State offensive line. Young, a 6-6, 325-pounder, went on to play in the NFL.
Defensive end: Darren Howard (1996-99)
Howard, a two-time All-Big 12 selection, was a cornerstone on some of K-State’s best defenses. The defensive end owns the school record for sacks in a career with 29.5 and is second in school history with 54 tackles for loss. Howard led the 1997 defense with 11 sacks and the 1998 defense with 10.5 sacks. He also owns K-State’s record for forced fumbles in a single season with six and is tied for the school lead in a career with nine.
Defensive end: Nyle Wiren (1993-96)
Wiren’s 11.5 sacks in 1996 are tied for the top mark in a single season in program history. His 27.5 career sacks rank No. 2 all time. Wiren recorded three sacks in three different conference games during his time at K-State. The defensive end ranks sixth in school history with 46 tackles for loss in his career.
Defensive tackle: Tim Colston (1992-95)
A two-time All-American, Colston was named the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 after recording 81 tackles and seven sacks. His junior season was even more impressive. Colston recorded 94 tackles, eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 1994. Colston, a three-time All-Big Eight Conference selection, ranks eighth in school history with 18 career sacks and is 10th all time with 158 unassisted tackles, a remarkable feat for a defensive tackle.
Defensive tackle: Mario Fatafehi (1999-2000)
Fatafehi arrived at K-State as a junior college transfer and made an immediate impact. The defensive tackle started 24 consecutive games for the Wildcats and recorded 128 tackles and 12 sacks during his career. Fatafehi, a First-Team All-American, earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 1999, and earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors in his senior season after posting 80 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
Linebacker: Mark Simoneau (1996-99)
Linebacker might be the strongest position group during the Snyder era, making these selections difficult. But there was no debate that Simoneau, an All-American and three-time All-Big 12 selection, should be on the All-Bill Snyder First Team. The Kansas native racked up 400 tackles in his career, ranking third all time at K-State. His 251 solo tackles are the top mark in program history. Simoneau led the Wildcats in tackles in both 1998 and 1999 and his 52 tackles for loss in his career rank third in school history. Simoneau was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Linebacker: Jeff Kelly (1997-98)
It was quite the battle between the Oklahoma and K-State coaching staffs to land Kelly. In the end, the Wildcats got the talented linebacker, and Kelly made all the recruiting work K-State put in pay off. The 1998 First-Team All-American only spent two seasons in Manhattan, but he still ranks fourth all time with 47 tackles for loss. Kelly’s 24 tackles for loss in 1997 are No. 3 all time in a single season for K-State, while his 23 tackles for loss in 1998 rank fifth all time.
Linebacker: Josh Buhl (2000-03)
Buhl redshirted in 1999, but on home game days, he would still warm up with his teammates wearing the No. 7 on his jersey. Michael Bishop, one of the most popular players in the Snyder era, had just departed. Little did K-State fans know at the time they would be able to continue wearing that No. 7 jersey proudly for a future All-American. Buhl’s 184 tackles in the 2003 season ranks No. 1 all time at K-State. His 135 tackles in 2002 ranks 12th on the all-time chart. His 109 unassisted tackles in the 2003 season ranks No. 1 in school history, while he ranks second all time at K-State with 247 solo tackles. Buhl, who recorded 398 tackles during his career, wasn’t your prototypical size for a linebacker, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better player for his position pound for pound.
Cornerback: Terence Newman (1999-2002)
Well, this was an easy choice. Newman was a unanimous First-Team All-American in 2002 and was named the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year after intercepting five passes and breaking up 14 more. The Salina, Kan., product won the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the country’s top defensive back) and was a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award (given to the country’s top defensive player). Newman’s 19 passes defended in 2002 rank third in school history for a single season. Selected with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft, Newman intercepted 10 passes during his college career, tying him for seventh all time in school history. But it wasn’t so much the interceptions from Newman that were key. Teams became afraid to throw his direction, and thus, he essentially eliminated half the field for an opposing quarterback to throw.
Cornerback: Chris Canty (1994-96)
Chalk up another easy decision here. Canty was a consensus two-time All-American at K-State. His 25 passes defended in 1995 rank No. 1 in school history for a single season, while his 56 passes defended in his career also ranks No. 1 all time. Canty’s eight interceptions in the 1995 season is the top mark in school history while his 14 career interceptions ranks No. 2 all time. Canty, who led K-State in interceptions in both 1995 and 1996, chose to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, where he was a first-round pick.
Safety: Jaime Mendez (1990-93)
K-State’s all-time leader in interceptions with 15, Mendez was one of the key pieces in building the Wildcats’ football program into a consistent winner. And when he picked off a pass, he made it count, averaging nearly 20 yards per interception return, far and away the best mark of any K-State defensive back ranking in the top 10 in career interceptions. Mendez burst onto the scene quickly, intercepting six passes as a redshirt freshman in 1990 while earning Honorable Mention All-Big Eight Conference honors. He eventually became a First-Team All-American in 1993 and finished his career with 313 tackles, ranking 11th all-time at K-State.
Safety: Lamar Chapman (1996-99)
A Second-Team All-American in 1999, the Liberal, Kan., native stood out in a strong secondary that featured Jerametrious Butler, Dyshod Carter and Gerald Neasman. Chapman earned Second-Team All-Big 12 honors in 1997 and was named First-Team All-Big 12 in 1998 and 1999.
First-Team Special Teams:
Placekicker: Martin Gramatica (1994-98)
Look up K-State’s record books for kicking and Gramatica’s name will appear frequently. The Argentina native was a two-time All-American at K-State and won the Lou Groza Award (given to the country’s top placekicker) in 1997. Gramatica owns the school record for points accounted for in a career with 349 and owns the school record for points accounted for in a single season with 135. Gramatica drilled a 65-yard field goal against Northern Illinois in 1998, the longest made field goal without a tee in the history of college and professional football at the time.
Punter: Sean Snyder (1991-92)
Snyder, a consensus All-American, holds K-State’s single-season record with an average of 44.56 yards per punt in 1992. Snyder is second all-time in yards per punt, averaging 42.96 yards per attempt in his two-year career.
Punt returner: David Allen (1997-2000)
K-State has been loaded with punt returners during the Snyder era. But in the end, this choice was clear. Allen returned seven punts for touchdowns in his career, tying the NCAA record, and was an All-American. Allen holds the school record with 1,646 punt-return yards during his career. The next closest is Aaron Lockett with 845 yards. Allen owns the single-season record with 730 yards on 33 attempts in 1998, a remarkable average of 22.1 yards per return. Allen once returned punts for touchdowns in three consecutive games, including a dazzling return against Texas in Manhattan in 1998. Allen also holds the K-State record with four punt-return touchdowns in a single season.
Kick returner: Brandon Banks (2008-09)
Banks only played one season under Snyder, but he made it count, returning a school-record four kicks for touchdowns in the 2009 season. Banks owns the single-season record with 1,127 kick-return yards and the career record with 1,625 return yards on only 57 attempts, an average of 28.5 yards per return.
Quarterback: Collin Klein (2008-12)
Running back: Daniel Thomas (2009-10)
Fullback: Brian Goolsby (1995-98)
Wide receiver: Quincy Morgan (1999-00)
Wide receiver: Darnell McDonald (1997-98)
Tight end: Thomas Hill (2000-03)
Offensive line: Thomas Barnett (1998-02)
Offensive line: Jeromey Clary (2002-05)
Offensive line: Quentin Neujahr (1989-93)
Offensive line: Ryan Lilja (2002-03)
Offensive line: Randall Cummins (1997-00)
Defensive end: Chris Johnson (1998-00)
Defensive end: Monty Beisel (1997-00)
Defensive tackle: Tank Reese (2001-02)
Defensive tackle: Damion McIntosh (1996-99)
Linebacker: Arthur Brown (2011-12)
Linebacker: Ben Leber (1998-01)
Linebacker: Percell Gaskins (1992-95)
Cornerback: Joe Gordon (1993-96)
Cornerback: Thomas Randolph (1990-93)
Safety: Jon McGraw (1997-01)
Safety: Ty Zimmerman (2010-13)
Second-Team Special Teams:
Placekicker: Jamie Rheem (1996-00)
Punter: James Garcia (1995-98)
Punt returner: Aaron Lockett (1998-01)
Kick returner: William Powell (2009-10)
Thoughts? Fire away.