What if I told you Kansas State quarterback Nick Marshall was gearing up his Wildcats for a big out-of-conference game against No. 5 Auburn in the hopes of not only launching his Heisman campaign in tiny Manhattan, Kansas, but also preparing to make a statement that his team is a legitimate contender for the Big 12 and national titles?
That almost happened.
Marshall—the senior signal-caller for the Auburn Tigers—was pursued heavily by Kansas State as a dual-threat quarterback out of Garden City (Kansas) Community College in the class of 2013.
So much so that Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder wanted Marshall over then-Iowa Western Community College and current Kansas State starting quarterback Jake Waters, according to Jay G. Tate of AuburnSports.com.
"He definitely wanted me there," Marshall told Tate in May of 2013. "They were cool, but that's not what I wanted. I came to Kansas to get away; I didn't want to stay in Kansas. That's the last thing on my mind."
Except that it wasn't.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee were hot on the trail of Marshall at Arkansas State but knew other programs—bigger programs—would come calling. Kansas State was already there, Indiana got into the mix and then the big one came—Texas.
"I was going to go with Texas," he said.
But Case McCoy was reinstated to the program in January 2013, and Marshall's Texas offer was pulled, according to Tate. Instead of heading to Austin for an official visit, Marshall told Auburn's coaches he'd instead visit Kansas State that weekend. Malzahn and Lashlee convinced him to commit instead of taking the trip, despite the best efforts of Snyder.
"He didn't waver at all," Garden City offensive coordinator Matt Miller told Tate. "Even with Bill Snyder writing hand-written letters every day saying: You're my guy; you're my quarterback. They knew Nick was better than the guy they had coming in. They saw Nick being their starter."
What would that have been like for Kansas State?
Instead of rotating quarterbacks last season with Waters and former Wildcat Daniel Sams, Marshall would likely have won the job outright in the summer for the then-defending Big 12 co-champion Wildcats.
Would that have prevented Kansas State from losing four of their first six games of the 2013 season?
He certainly would have made the North Dakota State game to open the season easier, as well as Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Couple Marshall with wide receiver Tyler Lockett and then-senior running back John Hubert—a 1,000-yard performer—and Kansas State's rebuilding year would have been more of a reloading year.
A dynamic dual-threat quarterback with a tremendous deep threat and capable running back in an offense that knows how to properly utilize running quarterbacks?
That sounds familiar. You know, sort of like Auburn's 2013 season?
That's not to say that Kansas State would have been 13 seconds away from a national title with Marshall, but it wouldn't be a dark-horse title contender this year, either. Marshall showed a tremendous ability to pick up an offense on the fly in 2013 at Auburn, leading the Tigers to a 12-2 record despite only two-and-a-half weeks at starting quarterback before taking his first snap.
His ability to grasp the offense and go would have made the transition away from Collin Klein easier for Snyder and kept the Kansas State program in the national discussion.
Instead, though, Marshall got out of Kansas, landed in Auburn and the rest is history.
When the Tigers take the field on Thursday night in the Little Apple, though, it will hold special meaning for Marshall. Kansas State was one of the few willing to give him a shot at quarterback. Had Malzahn not been hired by Auburn, Marshall might have been leading the Wildcats into this big out-of-conference showdown on Thursday night instead of the Tigers.
Oh, what might have been.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.