Joe Schartz isn’t shy preaching the tradition and values of Manhattan High football. This is a winning program that doesn’t settle for anything other than strict dedication to the game, the team and themselves.
The Indians have done this by “sticking to the basics” as Schartz, the Indians’ head coach, often has said in the past. Manhattan’s success is predicated by owning its values, trusting the senior leaders and representing its history with pride.
Sam Shields, the Indians’ star offensive linemen who is committed to hometown Kansas State, encompasses all those values.
“I just think doing things right on and off the field is everything for me,” Shields said. “I want to hold my teammates accountable, hold myself accountable and make sure that we are doing the right thing and competing every day at practice to make sure we are getting better.”
Shields’ career at Manhattan is the perfect example of what Schartz wants to see from anyone who seeks success within his program. Shields didn’t play on the varsity squad as a sophomore.
There already was a hardened, experienced senior class ahead of him that owned the trenches for the Indians. Shields never got down on himself, though, because he knew his time was coming when theirs was over.
“I knew our whole senior offensive line was graduating, so I knew I had a role to fill and wanted to do a good job,” Shields said. “I was attacking the weight room to make sure I got faster and stronger and learned the playbook better.”
His effort paid off in a big way, as Shields was the staple of a sound Manhattan offensive line that led the Indians to a 10-2 season in 2018. Shields’ standout performances garnered the attention of several colleges.
He’s the type of player who likes to focus on the game, though. Until Kansas State offered him, the process was stressful.
“I had a few other schools looking at me, and I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to do,” he said, “and right when K-State offered me I had this feeling like I knew that was what I always wanted. I knew that before, but I wasn’t really sure because I was trying to feel everything out. But after they offered, I knew that’s what I wanted and what I was going to do.”
Shields grew up a Kansas State fan. He even went on a couple of unofficial visits before Wildcats head coach Chris Klieman made the offer.
Shields called Klieman later that same evening and committed, then announced his decision on Twitter on April 17.
“Coach Schartz was excited for me and happy,” Shields said. “I think everyone, especially me, was excited that the recruiting process was over so it could be time to focus on my senior season.”
Shields is following footsteps of past Manhattan players who also went on to play for Kansas State.
He even heard from Winston Dimel, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks in April and played fullback for the Indians and Wildcats.
“Winston reached out to me after I made the commitment and just said how awesome it was to play for your hometown team and how there is really nothing like it,” Shields said. “I can just feel that coming my way.”
Shields said he knows what he represents for this team, and hasn’t taken his leadership position lightly. Schartz said, while the leadership on the team has been strong, there will be sophomores who will play significant roles.
He’s already used his story to motivate those who will follow him when his time at Manhattan is over.
“I’ve been telling them when I was a sophomore I didn’t play varsity,” Shields said. “A lot can change. Keep your head up if you aren’t playing and good things will come if you keep working, because that’s what I did. I just kept working and good things started to happen.”