MANHATTAN, Kan. — The letters come on Kansas State stationery, always written in purple, felt-tip pen. The scrawling handwriting is unmistakable, the looping letters clear and distinct.
Each is unique, though, tailored to a player who was injured.
In an era of Twitter and text messages and attention spans of 130 characters or less, the notes that Bill Snyder writes still stand out. They arrive shortly after games, usually offering his encouragement or expressing his admiration, regardless of the outcome.
He does not leave the job to an assistant. He does not have a secretary type them up. No, the longtime Kansas State coach spends a few minutes each week writing them himself.
“Well, I’ve got to do something,” Snyder said with a wry grin. “You’re in an office 24 hours a day, so you find something to do. But I do write a great deal of notes.
“It’s to players that I believe performed well,” he said, “to young people that I believe have the right approach, the right attitude about their lives, about college football.”
Snyder has a hard time recalling the first letter. He doesn’t even hazard a guess as to how many he’s written over the years. In fact, the 74-year-old coach had probably sent dozens if not hundreds before anybody besides the recipient ever became aware of them.
It wasn’t until a few players posted their letters on Twitter that they became known.
“You’ve had a great year, Jace,” read a letter that Snyder wrote a couple years ago to Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who dislocated a rib during his game against Kansas State.
“Admire how hard you play and the innate toughness you display to help your team. Hope you weren’t hurt badly on Saturday,” Snyder wrote. “Wishing you and your teammates continued success, good fortune and health.”
Amaro, now with the New York Jets, still has the letter at home.
“It definitely meant a lot to me to get that letter,” Amaro said. “It was one of those deals where I got injured and I knew it was my last home game and I was never going to play there again, so I guess he took notice of how I was playing with a dislocated rib.
“He just respects the guys he goes against,” Amaro said.
Even if they deal Snyder’s own team a staggering loss.
The Wildcats began the 2013 season as reigning Big 12 champions. But in their opener, lower-division North Dakota State rolled into town and beat them 24-21 in a major upset.
Their season in tatters, Snyder sat down and wrote to Bison quarterback Brock Jensen.
“I was truly impressed with you,” the letter read. “You played so very well, virtually error free and with such poise. I wish you a great year and hope you achieve all you desire.”
North Dakota State went on to win its third consecutive FCS national championship.
“That was our first game, arguably ruined their season right off the bat,” Jensen said, “and yeah, for him, I’m sure it was hard writing that letter. But that’s the kind of person he is. He isn’t going to change whether it’s a tough loss or maybe a loss that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Jensen, who spent time with the Miami Dolphins earlier this season, also kept his letter. The fact that it came in the mail — old-fashioned mail — made it more special.
THE upmost respect to Kansas State and Coach Snyder, great program and an even greater coach. Huge fan. pic.twitter.com/fjeflBLU47
— Jace Amaro (@J_ACER22) November 18, 2013
“It’s almost nowadays considered to be old school to write a letter,” Jensen said, “but I’m sure if you were to ask coach Snyder, he would love to hear he’s old school. It’s cool to see that he still writes them. There’s something about taking the time to express yourself.”
Earlier this season, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett sustained a concussion in his game against Kansas State. Five days later, Trickett posted on Twitter the letter he had received, calling Snyder “the epitome of college coaches” in an accompanying tweet.
“Sorry I didn’t see you after the game Clint,” the letter read. “Wasn’t aware that you had received a concussion. I hope the symptoms are gone by now and that you will be back soon. Always appreciated you as a young man of great values as well as being an excellent quarterback.”
Snyder said he writes hundreds of letters, not just to opponents. He tries to answer as much fan mail as possible. He’s constantly writing notes to coaches and recruits.
None of the correspondence was ever meant to become public.
“It’s so easy to email things. I prefer not to do that,” he said. “That’s just part of being a hundred years old — you refer back to some old-school things. So I write notes. We utilize a lot of note cards at Kansas State. That’s where the biggest part of our budget goes.”
He’s joking, of course. But probably not embellishing by much.
The Wildcats are busy preparing for UCLA in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2. It will be their fifth consecutive bowl game since Snyder returned from a brief retirement, and a chance to crack the 10-win mark for the ninth time in school history — all of those with Snyder on the sideline.
Regardless of the outcome, though, one thing is certain: Once the game is over, there will be a letter or two on Kansas State stationery on the way to California.