Around signing day in 2011, Daniel Sams laid out the plan for his freshman season.
The incoming freshman Slidell, La., said Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein would be moving back to wide receiver so that he could step right in and take the reins of the offense.
Well, of course, that didn’t happen. As most know by now, Sams redshirted a year ago and Klein went on to lead the Wildcats to a 10-3 season and a Top 10 national ranking.
When he looks back on it, a now humbled Sams sees it as one of his lowest moments.
“That was my arrogant cockiness, I kind of regret that, ” he said. “When I got here Collin still took me in with open arms even though he heard I had said that. Coach Snyder always says, ‘if you want to be great, copy someone that already is.’ I couldn’t be in a better position than Collin Klein ahead of me.”
Two months ago, it didn’t even look like Sams would be No. 2 on the depth chart.
The Wildcats had brought in another quarterback in true freshman Tavarius Bender, and he quickly snatched up the job from Sams in spring competition.
That’s when Sams said a conversation with Klein turned everything around for him.
“Me and Collin talked about that, he was like, ‘both of you guys are good quarterbacks, you could do good things in the system,’” he said. “He actually told me, ‘you’ve got to tone it down a little bit. Everyone knows you’re an athlete, just do it on the field.’ Seeing that Tay moved in front of me, it didn’t shock me because he was great, but I was taking everything for granted.”
Bender left the program just weeks before the season began, and Sams stepped in the first game of the season against Missouri State and ran three times for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Instantly, Sams’ profile seemed to rise to sky-high levels. In the past, the quarterback might have reacted to it differently. But now, he looks at everything as a learning experience.
Now four appearances into his college career, Sams has 20 carries for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Torrell Miller, who grew close to Sams as a fellow Louisiana native, said he can see the growth in the redshirt freshman by the amount of work he puts in.
“He grew a lot by maturing,” he said. “He has matured a lot since his freshman year, when he first came in, to now. Over the past month, him just getting his mechanics down, him staying after practice working on his mechanics, he grew a lot.
“He’s matured a lot off the field, and when you mature off the field, it translates to on the field.”
Miller said he thinks Klein has played the biggest role in awakening Sams, and steering him in the right direction.
Sams said since the K-State senior took him under his wing, his teammates seem to look at him differently.
“I believe Collin is the reason,” he said. “With my teammates now and me humbling myself, everything is closer now. I have friends on the team, but it seems like the second-team offense, they draw to me.
“Sometimes Collin will go out with Coach and talk about stuff and I will go in with the ones and take plays, and everyone’s attentive now, because at first it was, ‘he’s cocky, we don’t know, is he really a quarterback,’ I’m trying to copy what Collin does, it feels like everyone’s drawn to it.”
There is still plenty to be seen out of the young QB, as he is yet to attempt a pass in his career.
Can he even pass? Of course, he says.
“I can throw the ball, right now it’s not my time,” he said. “I’m just grateful for anything I get, I mean I wouldn’t mind going in the game and kneeling. My time will come to throw the ball.”
As the sun begins to set on Klein’s career, Sams said he is growing comfortable with the offense, and attempting to duplicate exactly what the Heisman Trophy candidate does for his team.
But he says he still wants to soak up all he can this season.
“I want to get to the point when the defense switches it up, (I know) what can I check to,” he said. “Collin does it and sometimes I think he knows more than Coach (Del) Miller with how fast he’s checking and stuff. What I try to do is watch from the sideline and see what he’s checking to.
“He looks at stuff that I wouldn’t know to look at it. I look at safeties, corner’s eyes, he looks at the defensive front. I’m trying to get to that point.”
Sams has seemingly come a long way from his high school days, and even this past summer. As a junior in high school, Sams was dismissed from the team for rule violations. Already committed to the Wildcats during a breakout senior season, Sams spurned other schools’ calls with the phrase “EMAW, baby.”
But in the end, K-State was the only school that sought out Sams’ services as a quarterback. And with Klein as his mentor, the Wildcats might just be grooming their guy for their future.