Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder back at work after cancer scare
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Bill Snyder doesn't spend as much time in the office these days, and it gnaws at him just as much as an overthrown pass, missed tackle or blown blocking assignment.
The longtime Kansas State coach with the infamous work ethic has been limited the past few weeks by treatments for throat cancer — or more specifically, the side effects from the treatment. The diagnosis came shortly before the Wildcats' bowl game and the chemotherapy regimen began earlier this year, and only recently did Snyder go through the final round of treatment.
Still, it hasn't kept the 77-year-old away from the Wildcats as they begin preparing for a season loaded with expectations. He's been on the field the first four spring practices, meticulously dissecting each of them, just as he has been for nearly three decades.
Even if the days in between might mean fewer hours spent in the office.
"I wish I could spend more time at it, but I guess I can do most of the things I've been able to," Snyder said Tuesday. "You still put in the time. All of it's not here, though."
And that's a tough adjustment for a coach who once copped to having one meal a day, lest he waste any time eating, and consulted a hypnotist in the hopes of finding a way to sleep less.
"It's tough. We know coach is a very private person and we wanted to help, but we knew he wanted to handle it in his own way," senior linebacker Trent Tanking said. "We work a lot and coach still works even more than us. It just give us motivation to do even more to get ready."
Fresh off a nine-win season and Texas Bowl triumph, Kansas State has the makings of a Big 12 title contender. The Wildcats return more than 80 percent of their scoring, led by quarterback Jesse Ertz and running back Alex Barnes, and enough playmakers on defense to make up for a few significant losses.
They also have a schedule conducive to success: They play nonconference games against Central Arkansas, Charlotte and Vanderbilt before the Big 12 grind.
Maybe that's why Snyder has approached his treatment with a matter-of-fact mindset, preferring to focus on linebacker competitions and running back races rather than his latest hospital trip.
"I'm finished with all the treatments, just kind of going through the after-effects now. Then you get tested again down the road, a few months," he said. "I think the hardest part is the after-effects that come with it. That's what we're going through right now. But millions of people have done it."
He's seemingly heard from all of them.
Letters began pouring in immediately after the school announced Snyder's treatment in January, many of them from people who have been impacted by cancer in their own lives. At first, Snyder tried to respond to each of them with a handwritten note, then he had to resort to signing form letters.
Now that he's caught up, Snyder is back to writing them out. But he quickly added a smile and acknowledged, "I'm a little behind in that respect."
Snyder insisted that little has changed in the way he's approached the offseason or the start of spring practices, which conclude with the spring game on April 22. Longtime assistant coach Del Miller retired, and former quarterback Collin Klein has returned to the coaching staff, but otherwise Snyder has been going through the familiar preparation process like he has for decades.
Nitpicking the problems. Almost grudgingly offering praise.
"Our first two practices I was very pleased with. They were upbeat, they moved rapidly, we practiced faster than we have for some time," Snyder said. "The third practice was a little bit of a letdown and (Monday) was a little bit of a mixed bag.
"There's so much talk about having a ton of returning starters back and being experienced," he added. "But if you're 18, 19 years old, you sometimes can maybe take that the wrong way and take things for granted, and I think some of that showed up during the out of season program."
Yes, even when Snyder was making trips to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City for treatment, he managed to keep his thumb firmly on everything taking place this offseason.
There is a season only a few months away, after all. And he plans on being on the sideline.