This season never became more real for Daniel Sams than on Nov. 3.
With Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein knocked out of the game, the Wildcats turned to their redshirt-freshman to take the reins of the offense and keep the team on the path to a win.
And with uncertainties about Klein’s status for the next game, it seemed that the Wildcats would have to give Sams his first career start.
That never happened, of course, but Sams said if it did, he would have been ready to lead the team through the remainder of the season.
“I don’t know as much as Collin, but I feel with my knowledge, we would’ve still been successful this year,” he said.
Sams has come along way since he arrived at K-State, so much so that it’s been assumed that he would be the heir apparent to Klein. But that might not be the case anymore.
The Wildcats signed Iowa Western quarterback Jake Waters this past Wednesday, adding the newly-crowned Junior College Player of the Year into this spring’s QB competition.
Sams isn’t bitter about the addition. Surprisingly, he welcomes it.
“I’m not against that,” he said. “I don’t have anything to do with recruiting, but I feel competition will always make this team better. I didn’t want the position handed to me anyway — I feel I would have gotten complacent. I’m fine with somebody coming in, competing for the job.”
Sams said he understands the talent that Water possesses, and the advantage he might have in age and experience. But he said it’s something to learn from. Although Waters has talked about speaking with both Klein and wide receiver Tyler Lockett on occasion, Sams said they’ve never spoken.
As a college quarterback, Sams has had to learn how to evolve from his days as a high school kid in Louisiana.
When he came to college, Sams said he had no work ethic, didn’t know how to work hard and didn’t care for the film room. He also thought he was the best player on the team from day one.
Sams said the way guys work at Kansas State is what has impressed him the most about coming from SEC country to the Big 12.
“I come from an SEC-type environment and everybody is cocky, ‘yeah I’m the best, I’m a 5-star,’” he said. “But the way these guys work up here, I had to adapt to it when I first got here because I had that attitude.”
Sams has often admitted he was cocky when he arrived in Manhattan. At the time he committed to the Wildcats, he told reporters he would be the starting quarterback and Klein would be moving back to wide receiver. He still regrets saying it.
By the time he got to K-State, he said he still believed he would be able to compete with Klein from day one and eventually pass him.
Now, he wouldn’t trade the amount he has learned from him.
“I watch film with him, and its really been a leader thing because being a quarterback at this level is more than just what you do on the field,” he said. “He’s been teaching me that in the classroom and film room. I couldn’t be in a better position playing behind a guy like Collin — Heisman Trophy candidate, All-America status — it’s been good.”
Sams knows there will be challenges for him after the Fiesta Bowl, as he prepares to get ready for a likely heated competition in the spring.
There will be questions about him, including whether or not he has the arm to be a solid quarterback. Sams said much of his throwing success will come on the run. And to answer questions about his arm strength, Sams humbly rated it about an eight out of 10.
Sams said the most important part of the spring will be proving that he can be the leader of this team.
“It will have to be getting the whole team to rally behind me besides just the offense,” he said. “I feel I’ve done that, but we’re not really working with the number one defense. I feel to get this whole team around me would be a good challenge.”