When Bill Snyder turned 16 years old, his father bought him a car. Not just any car. A yellow Mercury Monterey convertible.
Maybe it was out of guilt. Snyder's parents divorced when he was six; mother and son moved from Salina, Kan., to St. Joseph, Mo. Tom Snyder, a traveling salesman, ended up in Omaha, Neb., where he saw his son only occasionally and was not a big influence in his life.
You know what kind of status went with a yellow Mercury convertible in St. Joe in 1954? You know how hard it would be with that kind of ride to not act like the big man on campus of Lafayette High School?
We know him as the greatest football coach God ever made, architect of the Manhattan Miracle, and now he's got a sequel. Snyder is bringing his steely gaze and quiet voice and raw-boned Kansas State football team to Norman for a Saturday showdown against the Sooners.
Here in Big 12 country, we know Snyder as the all-consumed coach who doesn't give in to things like sleep or dinner, much less temptations like yellow convertibles.
But in 1954, Snyder still was a work in progress.
“I took the liberty of starting to hang out with friends and have my car, do all the things kids will do,” Snyder said. “Amazing car.”
The Snyder Rebellion lasted two weeks. Then the person who made Snyder everything he is today put the kibosh on it.
“After two weeks, my mother called my father,” Snyder said. “‘You come and get this car.'
“She took my car away from me. About two years later, she allowed me to buy a 1947 Chevrolet, from my grandfather, for $50.”
Lots of people along the way have helped Snyder fashion the greatest gridiron story ever told. Hayden Fry and Michael Bishop and KSU president emeritus Jon Wefald and the brothers Stoops.
But the person most responsible for Bill Snyder the man was Marionetta Snyder, a 4-foot-9 woman who never reached 100 pounds in her life.
“My mother was a fascinating person in my life,” Snyder said. “Toughest person I've ever known.”
The Little Apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Of all the traits that took Kansas State football from farce to force, toughness ranks No. 1. Outworking people. Dogged determination, even when you discover you've taken a destitute job.
Snyder has built his program around what he calls “16 Goals.”
Commitment. Unselfishness. Unity. Improvement. Toughness. Self-discipline. Great effort. Enthusiasm. Elimination of mistakes. Never giving up. Don't accept losing. No self-limitations. Expect to win. Consistency. Leadership. Responsibility.