Nigel Malone stepped into the Wildcat Nation without a clue of knowing what big-time football was all about.
He was nothing but a west coast kid – Manteca, Calif. – who arrived at Kansas State via City College of San Francisco.
Oh, he had intercepted three passes and scored 25 tackles as a sophomore, but he was ranked as no more than a 3-Star talent that chose K-State because the majority of the Pac 10 schools didn't think he was worthy of a scholarship.
Bill Snyder, however, liked what he saw on tape, and even more so in person once the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder arrived on campus.
"He played well," said Snyder. "He's an instinctive player."
So instinctive, in fact, that he was in on 58 tackles with 46 of those being unassisted, plus intercepted seven balls and had 17 other pass breakups. For that, he was a Thorpe Award semifinalist, a second team Walter Camp All-American and voted as a first team All-Big 12 cornerback by the league's coaches.
Malone called it "… a decent season, but as a team we didn't finish where we wanted to. Whatever we didn't get done last year, this team has taken it upon itself to finish the season even better."
What K-State did last year was win 10 games and finish second in the Big 12 Conference. That's second, which means a higher placing than Oklahoma, and Texas, and Texas A&M, and all the others with the exception of league champion Oklahoma State.
To that, however, Malone has been listening to the orations of his coach when looking toward the fall of 2012.
"This is a different team. It's a new team," said Malone. "We have a lot of the same pieces, but it's a new team. We may have snuck up on a few teams last year, which won't happen this year," said Malone. "Teams will be ready to play us this year, but those teams also know that we're a team of heart.
"We just need to learn how to put all four quarters together. If we do that, the sky is the limit," said Malone. "We have to learn how to put together four quarters of offense, defense and special teams."
Among the other eight wins were a one-pointer, two three-pointers, two four-pointer and three seven-pointers.
"We can build off of last year, but we need to learn how to put teams away," said Malone. "We have to learn how to play all four quarters."
While Malone will try to improve on his own on-field play, he said his spring-time focus this year included "… trying to become a better leader. I still feel like I'm kind of new, but in reality I've been through a full season. People are looking to me as a better leader as well as improve my skills as a corner."
While his 2011 season included such games as nine solo tackles at Texas, and four pass deflections against Oklahoma, and twice having two interceptions in a single game, Malone says his success did not come easily or as a surprise to him.
"One of our 16 goals is to not set limitations on yourself," said Malone. "If you have all the tools, you need to put them to use." Malone and his Wildcat teammates will conclude the spring season on April 28 with a 1:10 p.m. kickoff in the annual Purple-White game.