MANHATTAN, Kan. — Feisty? You dig feisty? Jake Waters once got a defender so angry that the guy ran over, hauled off and punched him after the play was over.
True story. It’s November 2007, during the Iowa Class 1-A state football semifinals, and the new starting quarterback at Kansas State is a 5-foot-10 sophomore signal-caller with Council Bluffs St. Albert High School, running mad circles around Southern Cal High of Lake City.
It’s the fourth quarter, and Waters is trying to help St. Albert salt this bad boy away and lock up a berth in a second straight state title game. The details, as recounted in an Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald story:
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“After Jake Waters was tackled on a running play, he was punched by a Mustang player, an action witnessed by several observers on the sideline and confirmed by the St. Albert quarterback. When Jake Waters got up and said something to the defender, he was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, infuriating the Falcons.”
You dig passion? Don’t let the grace and the calm and the Sunday-school smile fool you, brother. Collin Klein’s successor under center, deep inside, burns like a brick pizza oven.
“I see the want and the will to get better, that sense of being competitive,” Wildcat center B.J. Finney said when asked to compare quarterbacks old and new for K-State, which hosts North Dakota State on Friday night in a season opener televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. “Both Jake and Collin share that.
“There’s a fire within them — they want to be the best that they can. Jake definitely has the same intense burn that Collin had. So it’s good to have that consistency.”
You dig dedication? The 6-foot-1 Waters turned up in The Little Apple over the winter, set up camp in the film room, and before long, had transformed himself into one of the teacher’s pets. During sweltering summer workouts, the junior college transfer out of Iowa Western looked as if he’d been running quarterbacks coach Del Miller’s system for years, not months.
“It’s a hard offense to comprehend, especially at the quarterback position,” fullback Glenn Gronkowski said of Waters, who beat out sophomore Daniel Sams for the starting nod.
“That position, as tough as it is, just knowing where every single person is going and knowing where everybody’s got to be — I’m just surprised how quick he picked it up.”
You dig arm strength? Waters’ spiral is so crisp, so air-tight, that K-State receivers spent the spring fighting off a chronic case of whiplash.
“One of the things we learned about him when he first got here,” wideout/return ace Tyler Lockett noted, “is that we’ve got to hurry up and snap our neck around. Because he’ll throw it and it’ll hit your helmet.”
You dig wheels? Waters reportedly clocked a 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash as recently as 2012. In the K-State spring game four months ago, he rambled for 27 yards on five carries with the first-team offense.
You dig poise? When someone asked for a breakdown of Waters’ decision-making skills, this was the response:
“Every quarterback I’ve ever coached knows that I hate interceptions, because they’re game-killers. He’s accepted that responsibility and not forced bad balls.”
Ripped straight from the gospel of Bill Snyder, right?
Wrong. It was Jim Duggan, one of Waters’ old high school football coaches. And it was offered up six years ago, to the World-Herald.
Speaking of six years ago, back to that punch Waters took against Southern Cal in the state semis.
The quarterback’s unsportsmanlike penalty left St. Albert facing a 3rd-and-24; young Jake responded with a 27-yard strike to his brother, Matt, now a senior wideout at Ohio University. For his next trick, Jake ran an option keeper, called his own number, and rambled 35 yards for a touchdown.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss?
“Jake’s pretty quick; he’s fast,” Finney said. “Coach (Snyder) isn’t changing his style at all. He’s not changing anything up. He’s going to find a player that fits his mold.”
Oh, yeah. Waters fits. Like a boxing glove. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org