A name unfamiliar to many, even across the Big 12 landscape, Jake Waters was named Third Team All-Big 12 in his first season at Kansas State University last year and still just might be the best kept secret in college football.
From the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Waters began his collegiate career in 2011 at Iowa Western Community College, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). He was still getting used to the college game and led the Reivers to a modest 9-2 record.
After Waters’ freshman campaign, Iowa Western head coach Scott Strohmeier noticed his quarterback up the ante when it came to his dedication to football. It all resulted in a historic 2012 season. On the year, Waters completed 244-of-333 passes to set an NJCAA-record for completion percentage of 73.3 percent. The previous mark was 71.1 percent held by Terrance Cain of Blinn College in 2007.
As the signal-caller, Waters helped the Reivers offense net 7,181 yards throughout the season, an average of 598.4 yards per game and good enough for an NJCAA record for total offense. With numbers resembling those from a video game, there was nothing that could stop Waters and his teammates. They finished the year undefeated (12-0) and won the school’s first NJCAA National Championship. To add to the accomplishments, Waters was named NJCAA Player of the Year.
Altogether, Waters sparked the run with his record marks, but it didn’t stop there. He threw for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns with only three interceptions. On the ground he accumulated 256 yards rushing and six more touchdowns. Waters demonstrated great ball security and terrific athleticism to put his name on the map as the top JUCO quarterback from the 2013 class. To put the numbers for Waters in 2012 into perspective, let’s compare them to another JUCO great—Cam Newton. Yes, that’s right, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner and current Carolina Panthers starting quarterback spent time at the JUCO level.
Newton initially attended the University of Florida in 2007 and 2008 where he served as the backup for Tim Tebow. Forced to take a medical redshirt in 2008, combined with off-the-field incidents that left him suspended from the Gators football team, Newton transferred to Blinn College in 2009. In his one season at the school, he completed 204-of-336 passes (60.7 percent) for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also showed off his dual-threat ability rushing for 655 yards and 16 touchdowns. While Newton was more of a threat on the ground, there is no doubt that Waters’ statistics were more impressive through the air.
Yet, following his JUCO career, the offers didn’t exactly come flying in for Waters. Ultimately it came down to Kansas State and Penn State. The difference: K-State recruits JUCO athletes more heavily than most programs. It doesn’t hurt that Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has a tendency to find diamonds in the rough. Just ask Darren Sproles and Collin Klein. On December 13, 2012, the Wildcats welcomed Waters to the mix.
It hasn’t solely been the JUCO level where Waters has found success, either. At Saint Albert High School he accumulated a 37-2 record as a starter. He also won two state titles. However, Waters was a three-sport star, so his focus was never fully on football. That could be why he has continually been overlooked and what destined him for the JUCO-first route before getting to play Division I football.
Now, one year under his belt at Kansas State, Waters hopes to become more of a leader. He is more comfortable in the system and has a better understanding of what is expected of him. The Wildcats will look to Waters to help them improve on their 8-5 record from a year ago. Even through the growing pains last season, Waters did become the first quarterback since 2002 to win a bowl game for the Wildcats.
For Waters, it will be a matter of taking what he has learned and continuing to develop. Last season he completed 159-of-260 passes (61.2 percent) for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He also scampered for 312 yards and six touchdowns, and is the Wildcats returning leading rusher.
If there was a preseason award for the Big 12 Breakthrough Player of the Year, it just might go to Waters. Based on his development at each level in the past, college football fans should become very familiar with the name Jake Waters in 2014.
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