In front of Bill Snyder, upon his desk, rests a stack of papers and handwritten notes. That's stuff for today. Behind the 72-year-old head coach stands a pair of black binders with "TWO-A-DAY PRACTICES" typewritten upon white labels. That's stuff for the days to come.
It's all the same. Nothing has changed. And the routine, the day-at-a-time approach, is exactly how the oldest active head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, who owns a 159-83-1 overall record, wants it to be.
Make no mistake, though, the wheels are spinning. They never stop. But Snyder did pause momentarily during what most of America refers to as the lunch hour. On this day, his only noticeable fuel comes from the piping-hot coffee sitting in a Styrofoam cup an arm's length away.
That part apparently hasn't changed, either, for the future College Football Hall-of-Famer who embarks on his 21st season with the Wildcats in the fall.
But today is about recalling the surprise 2011 season that featured the most wins by a K-State team in eight years and the Cotton Bowl berth that went along with it. It's about recounting the steps of a squad that won eight games within one score, the most by a team from a FBS automatic-qualifying league in history, including six victories when tied or trailing in the second half.
Snyder earned the PI Premier Award by Powercat Illustrated as Coach of the Year for the 2011-12 academic year at K-State, his first such honor since the 2003 Big 12 Championship season in which the Wildcats put the college football nation on its ear with a 35-7 win over top-ranked and undefeated Oklahoma one December night in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.
Some head coaches go years without reaching 10 wins or a major bowl. Snyder, of course, is no ordinary man. He returned to a downtrodden program prior to the 2009 season to calm the waters and over the course of three seasons smoothed all of the rockiness he found within the Flint Hills into a glassy lake.
"You know I'm not going to sit around trying to define where we're going to be in 10 months, so maybe that's the reason nothing has surprised me, because I didn't have those kinds of expectations or projections," Snyder told Powercat Illustrated for its end-of-the-year awards issue. "It's just a day at a time and that's never changed."
The climb was gradual. From the 6-6 record in 2009 to a 7-6 mark in 2010 and the Wildcats' first bowl appearance in four years to the 10-3 campaign in which the eighth-place team in the preseason Big 12 projections finished only behind Oklahoma State, it's an impressive ascension. The squad doubted again and again, picked as the underdog in eight of its final 10 regular season games, kept winning and winning and ascended to No. 8 in the final BCS Standings. In fact, only one team in the Top 15 of the final BCS Standings didn't receive a single vote in either of the two major preseason polls.
That team, which doubters believed entered with marginal talent and were expected to struggle mightily in the meat of the league season, played deeper into January than any team in K-State history and finished ranked at No. 16 by The Associated Press.