Tag Archives: Collin Klein Kansas State

The Case for Collin Klein

4 Dec
Collin Klein and jubilant teammates celebrate the program's third conference championship in 117 years of football. (Photo by Jamie Squire)

Collin Klein and jubilant teammates celebrate the program’s third conference championship in 117 years of football. (Photo by Jamie Squire)

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein knows all this is highly improbable.

“If you would have asked anybody a couple years ago if we’d be sitting here having this conversation today, they probably wouldn’t have believed you,” the Heisman Trophy candidate said, adding with a laugh, “and would have put a lot of money down on it.”

A home-schooled kid from Loveland, Colo., Klein struggled in his first couple years in then-new coach Bill Snyder’s system, even moving down the depth chart at times as he worked at wide receiver and on special teams.

Fast forward a couple years, and Klein was at the mall with his wife, Shalin, shopping for a trip that will culminate in New York, where Collin is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy thanks to his tireless work and that of his fellow Wildcats (11-1).

Sure, it might be considered surprising, but Klein quickly disputes the notion that circumstances simply fell into place.

“There’s definitely a lot to it,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d call them random. Everything happens for a reason, and some crazy things have happened to lead our team and myself to this point. There are a lot of reasons for that. There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation that have been put in on so many people’s part.”

Obviously, Kansas State’s entire team played an enormous role in Klein achieving what he has this year. It is an easy argument to make, however, that he has spearheaded a leadership movement that pushed this team to reach its potential in a way that few others around the country have.

***

Perhaps one of the most obvious aspects of Klein’s leadership is that he is never satisfied with his own performance, even though he has been tremendously effective, even though he gets boatloads of attention, even though the team has won consistently.

This is his second year at quarterback, and he says he still has plenty to learn, that he would not say he has necessarily mastered the playbook. There is more that can be done, and he’s okay with that. He welcomes that. He’s more than willing to tackle that.

“I still want to know more,” he said. “There’s still new nuances, new things that we can do and stuff. I guess that constant feeling of being comfortable with being uncomfortable and constantly trying to improve is something.”

It certainly is something. It’s something that has propelled the Wildcats to more wins than anyone outside the program ever predicted.

After all, how could any other player justify giving less than everything when the guy who seemingly would have the least to prove is the hardest worker on the team?

***

The other part of Klein’s leadership, the part those outside the program rarely see, is that the quarterback is almost as tough on his teammates as he is on himself. Unlike many athletes, he avoids swearing, but he knows how to get his point across. Other players respond because Klein has laid the foundation of relationship with each of them.

“You can’t ‘win anybody over,’” Klein said. “You’ve got to care for them and put their needs and their interests above your own, and they sense that, and they know that, and they know if it’s real or not. Folks aren’t – you can’t pull the wool over their eyes. They’re going to know if you’ve got their back or not.”

While Klein might not display emotion using four-letter words, he can still be fiery and powerful when he needs to get through to someone.

“People have taught and shown me you can be passionate and firm and very strong without swearing in someone’s face,” Klein said. “There have come a few times where I’ve had to do that. As long as the caring part is there and the heart for them is there, and it’s been there since you’ve known them, then when the time comes you have some creditability, and they trust you and they know that it’s because I care about, ultimately, you and this team.”

Of course, Klein points out – again – that none of this applies to him alone.

“As a leader, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and hold people accountable,” he said. “I’ve had to do it, but a lot of our teammates have done that, especially this season, from the seniors and all leadership positions, and it’s paid off.”

***

Another essential element of Klein is his perspective. It stems from his Christian faith, and it gives him peace in what might for otherwise be a rather turbulent and nerve-wracking time: traveling to three cities in three days to accept some awards and find out about others.

For Klein, though, there is more. His goal is bigger than the Heisman, bigger than the national championship, bigger than any of that. It’s this:

“Trying to be the best I can be with what God’s given me, trying to serve this team to the fullest with everything I possibly have and invest in the lives of people, which is the most important thing, and those people are my teammates and the people around here.”

Klein is confident those pursuits are worthy of his time and energy.

“That’s more important and will leave a longer legacy than any award, even as prestigious as the Heisman,” he said, “and with that perspective, and knowing that, that kind of puts it all in order for me.”

His grasp of a bigger picture also prevents him from dwelling on regret and what might have been. The loss to Baylor ruined Kansas State’s championship hopes and possibly Klein’s Heisman chances as well. He’s far from immune to the pain of that loss, but he knows there is more out there.

“It’s going to be a hard one forever,” he said. “It’s something probably none of us will ever forget. The lesson, and the response of our team in being able to bounce back, get back on the horse, finish, finish like we did, was huge and a valuable lesson. Who knows however many times you’re going to have to use it. Life’s not going to be easy, so it’s just about how you bounce back and respond and move forward.”

***

What does moving forward mean for Klein after graduation? Will he pursue an NFL career? Will he make use of his finance degree? What’s next for a player who has been compared to Tim Tebow and has brought more attention and success to Kansas State than it has enjoyed for so long?

 The short answer: He does not know.

The longer answer: He knows the goals he wants to achieve regardless of what profession he enters.

“I want to honor and serve my Lord and Savior,” Klein said. “I want to take care of my family spiritually, financially and physically and serve the people in whatever community I happen to be in at the time. Whatever that looks like, if it’s using my finance degree, or if it’s playing ball, if it’s a mixture of both, who knows. Who knows what it could be. Whatever it looks like, as long as those three things are intact, will be just fine.”

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Snyder remembers

23 Oct

Every now and again, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder will dodge a question by claiming forgetfulness. Though I’m somewhat skeptical, it might be true that the 73-year-old can no longer recall every detail of every game of the last 20-some years.

What he does remember are people.

On Tuesday I asked Snyder if he remembered a guy by the name of Jaime Mendez, a safety who played four years for the Wildcats beginning in 1990 – the year this senior in college was born. Needless to say, it has been a while since Mendez was on campus.

Except it really hasn’t. Snyder saw Mendez just a couple weeks ago, when the former player stopped by for a visit while in town.

“I remember an awful lot about him,” Snyder said. “He was not only a very talented player for us, came out of Ohio, young guy that just came here and does all the things we like for him to do, played extremely well for us, was a very successful player, is in the Ring of Honor up here, consensus All-American. He moved out to California, in fact married a very successful actress, has started his own business and has done quite well, and I still appreciate him.”

***

Players are not the only ones Snyder appreciates. All coaches credit fans for their support, but Kansas State’s coach does so with unmatched fervency and sincerity.

He talked Tuesday about the fans but also praised the football team’s support staff, naming several individuals representative of everyone inside the program, whose contributions few on the outside ever realize. These are the people who make the road trips go off without a hitch, who make the arrangements so the Wildcats get the consistency prior to each game that Snyder considers so vital.

The coach talked in particular about the journey to West Virginia, which he described as one of the most complex trips to organize. Upon arrival, Kansas State was greeted by Robert Lipson, who has been to every home game and conference road game since 1972.

Lipson might be described as something of an oddball, being so dedicated to the Wildcats that year after year after year he drives to every contest and sleeps in his car when he gets there.

As is evident by the year he began following the team, however, Lipson believed in Kansas State long before anybody else did. He supported the program long before the Wildcats gained national attention, and in fact, he remained a fan even while the program went through one of the most futile stretches in its history.

Snyder has not forgotten that loyalty.

“Who do I see when I get to the hotel? Robert,” Snyder said, then paused. “And everybody laughs. Bottom line is, he has a passion for it, and it means something to him. Young people, all of us, myself included, we need to have a great appreciation for that, someone who shows that kind of passion for what you do and makes the kind of sacrifices. Robert probably has the first car ever made, and it probably is on its last leg, and you can imagine … very meaningful.”

***

People matter to Snyder.

Tuesday might have been the only time I’ve heard him come close to raising his voice, and the brusqueness came in support of one of his players. A reporter asked the coach if quarterback Collin Klein is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. The coach had shot down the question in previous media sessions as an unfair one because Snyder does not watch film on all the other players out there who are being considered for the award. This was his response:

“I think Collin Klein is worthy of anything that he receives,” Snyder said with conviction. “He is an absolutely wonderful young man, a tremendously talented player. I haven’t seen all the people in the country. I can’t do that. If I’m going to vote, I’m going to vote on what I see, and I’ve seen him to be as fine a player as anybody.”

For as much success as he has had on the football field, the lasting legacy of Klein will not be winning the Heisman Trophy or even quarterbacking his team to a national title, if indeed the Wildcats continue their undefeated streak. Klein will be remembered for the person he is and for how he values other people.

For Snyder, it is the same.

The bond between coach and quarterback is often a strong one, but you won’t find many people more united in their values and mission than Bill Snyder and Collin Klein. (Photo from K-State Sports)

Harper describes change in program since Snyder’s return

23 Oct

Kansas State has enjoyed so much success this year and last year that it is easy to forget the depths from which the program has risen since coach Bill Snyder’s return in 2009. Following Ron Prince’s three-year tenure, the team went 6-6 and missed out on a bowl berth. The new staff – led by the legendary Snyder – had many problems to address.

Certainly, the 7-0 record of the Wildcats to this point in time would indicate that those issues have been dealt with.

There are plenty of numbers about time of possession, turnover margin and penalty yardage that speak to the fact that Kansas State is a disciplined group. Kansas State has the fewest penalties of any team in the country (24 total), leads the Big 12 in turnover margin (+12) and ranks in the top of the conference in time of possession.

But on Tuesday, wide receiver Chris Harper took a good amount of time to describe a culture change beyond statistics.

“When [Coach Snyder] first got here, we were terrible,” Harper said. “We sucked, and it was because we didn’t put the work in. Our work ethic sucked, the discipline and all that.”

Suffice it to say that some of the players on the team when Snyder returned did not live up to the high standards Snyder has for his athletes as individuals. Harper said there were some players who “were in trouble” – guys who wouldn’t even think about going to classes or who went out to Aggieville after games and winded up getting arrested.

According to Harper, those are not problems Snyder has to deal with anymore. Besides the expectations of Snyder and his staff, the players in leadership positions – the names of captains Collin Klein, Arthur Brown, B.J. Finney and Ty Zimmerman come to mind just for starters – will not stand for that kind of behavior.

“The program’s shifted,” Harper said. “There’s a total shift now in the discipline and the work ethic  … That comes from internal leadership too. You’re not just going to be held accountable from the coaches. You’re going to be held accountable from the players, and I think that’s something that matters, and that’s something that’s really big.”

Big Man on Campus: John Hubert

8 Oct

Not more than a month again, I wrote an article for the Associated Press about how running back John Hubert does so much to get Kansas State down the field but rarely gets to be the one to take the ball into the end zone.

It appears coach Bill Snyder has set out to prove that story incorrect.

Through five games, Hubert now has eight touchdowns, including four on Saturday in the Wildcats’ rout of Kansas.

In 2011, Hubert scored just three times despite racking up 970 yards of offense.

With more than twice as many touchdowns as last year , Hubert is on track to blow away his previous yardage numbers as well. He has already amassed 527 yards on 76 attempts, averaging 105.4 yards per game and 6.9 yards per carry.

Currently, the 5-foot-7 Hubert is among the top 30 running backs in the country in yards, yards per carry and touchdowns.

He does not get nearly as much press as quarterback Collin Klein, but with his running style and his blocking ability, he is definitely an integral part of the Wildcats’ offense.

Kansas State ranked behind five Big 12 teams in AP poll

18 Aug

One step forward, two steps back. The Wildcats finally received a little recognition, a bit of the benefit of the doubt in national polls … only to be listed the lowest of all teams from their conference.

After going 10-2 in the 2011 regular season and earning a berth in the Cotton Bowl, Kansas State received a modicum of respect. This year, voters for both major preseason polls – Associated Press and USA Today – placed Kansas State in the nation’s top 25. The Wildcats are No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 21 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

What is somewhat surprising, though, at least to this writer, is how many Big 12 teams have been ranked above Kansas State – Oklahoma at No. 4, West Virginia at No. 11, Texas at No. 15, Oklahoma State at No. 19 and TCU at No. 20.

Last season the Wildcats defeated Texas and nearly defeated the hot-as-all-get-out Cowboys in Stillwater. Kansas State did not play West Virginia or TCU in 2011, but both those teams come to the Big 12 from conferences not nearly as well represented in the Top 25 … meaning the level of competition they faced each week was significantly lower for them than it was for the Wildcats.

Oklahoma is justified, sure, but Oklahoma State is minus its unearthly tandem of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, and Texas is 13-12 over the last two seasons.

I am not saying Kansas State should be in the Top 10 or anything – not yet, anyway – but it seems to me a bit of a stretch to project that there are five teams better than the Wildcats in their own conference. Time will tell, of course, but watching Kansas State’s unprecedented run last season made me a believer.

With Bill Snyder at the helm, Collin Klein and Arthur Brown emerging into bigger leadership roles than ever in their senior seasons, and more returning players than the Wildcats have had in years, I would think this is the season you go out on a limb and give Kansas State an edge over some of its flashier opponents.

Of course, maybe the slight of being picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Big 12 will do the Wildcats good. After all, they certainly flourished in the underdog role last season.

In the preseason polls of 2011, coaches picked the Wildcats to finish eighth in the Big 12. As mentioned countless times later on, Kansas State finished the season No. 8 in the country. Poll, schmoll.

KSU wins 4OT thriller

12 Nov

Against both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats overcame 14-point deficits only to come away with a loss. Saturday would not follow that pattern.

In a scintillating four-overtime game, Kansas State defeated Texas A&M 53-50 in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It snapped the team’s 2-game losing streak and kept the Aggies a win away from bowl eligibility.

Collin Klein passed for 281 yards, rushed for 103 and scored six touchdowns in the game. Chris Harper had a huge game as well; his four catches went for 134 yards.

“There are no words to explain Collin,” said wide receiver Tramaine Thompson. “He is our team leader and is very tough. He had some pain, as did the rest of us, but he sure he did a lot of treatment so that he would be well for the game. He was able to be a leader the whole game.”

Both Kansas State and Texas A&M started slowly, with only 105 yards of offense in the first quarter between the two teams. After the initial 15 minutes, the action got more interesting.

Just a minute and a half into the second quarter, the Aggies scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Ryan Swope. Kansas State running back Angelo Pease fumbled on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession. That set up a short drive for the Aggies.

In two minutes, the Wildcats went from being in a 0-0 tie to being down 14-0 for the third week in a row.

The catalyst for Kansas State was a not-so-surprising interception by Nigel Malone – the seventh of the season for the cornerback. It took the Wildcats over five minutes, but they ground out the 33 yards between them and the end zone to get on the board with 3:45 to play in the first half.

Collin Klein scored on a 2-yard run, and a few minutes later the next Kansas State drive culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by him. Just like that, the Wildcats were tied with the Aggies again.

The third quarter proceeded, like the first, in a fairly uninteresting manner. The tide began to turn when Texas A&M went for it on fourth down and could not convert. The Wildcats got the ball on their 43-yard line – and promptly false started. Several plays later, Klein threw an interception.

A 57-yard interception return by cornerback Terrence Frederick positioned the Aggies for a quick 10-yard touchdown run to go up 21-14 on the Wildcats.

Kansas State continued to battle. They moved up the field on the strength of a 46-yard pass from Klein to Chris Harper and a 19-yard run by Klein, the Wildcats tied it up at 21 within the first minute of the fourth quarter.

On its next possession, though, the Wildcats fumbled for the second time in the game. Texas A&M recovered and had possession on the Wildcats’ 29-yard line. A short run by running back Cyrus Gray put the Aggies up 28-21 after quarterback Tannehill set up that play with a 20-yard scramble on the previous one.

A field goal increased the Aggies’ lead to 10 with 6:38 to play.

It wouldn’t be enough.

With a 53-yard touchdown pass by Harper and a 44-yard field goal by Anthony Cantele, the Wildcats knelt to send the game into overtime.

From there, the teams traded touchdowns, then traded field goals. At the start of the third overtime, the Wildcats scored but failed to get the two-point conversion. The Aggies did likewise.

On fourth-and-one in the fourth overtime, Texas A&M chose to kick a field goal rather than go for the touchdown. It would be the difference in the game.

A penalty gave the Wildcats first-and-goal from the two-yard line, and that was that.

“It feels good to get our rhythm back so that everyone knows it is not a fluke,” Thompson said. “We really do have this kind of record, and we can do great things.”

Before Saturday, the Kansas State football program had only seen one overtime game. That one also came against Texas A&M, for the 1998 Big 12 Championship, but the Wildcats lost in double overtime.

Fittingly, the Wildcats evened the score in the last game the teams will play against each other in the foreseeable future, since the Aggies are moving to the SEC. Even without that added significance, though, it was a colossal game.

“You are so locked in you do not realize what you are a part of at the time being,” said wide receiver Curry Sexton. “Tomorrow it will set in, maybe when the adrenaline slows down, but it is surreal.”

 

The Honey Badger Way

25 Oct

Klein (7) reacts after his team held Miami inside the 2-yard line during the final minute of the game. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Throughout the season, the toughness of a certain Kansas State quarterback has become more and more apparent – so much so, in fact, to spawn a YouTube video of highlights of his plays with audio describing a honey badger, a creature renowned for its fearlessness, toughness and resiliency in the face of scarier-looking foes – like, for example, snakes.

His teammates have certainly gotten a huge kick out of the video, and they enjoy teasing him about it.

“We make fun of him all the time, on Twitter and things like that. I know we get a real kick out of it. He gets kind of embarrassed sometimes because he doesn’t like that much attention, but we like seeing him embarrassed like that sometimes. He’s always playing that tough-guy role, so seeing him out of his element sometimes is pretty funny.”

For his part, the always-modest Klein seems to find it pretty hilarious too. He said the video was a learning experience – before seeing it, he did not know what a honey badger was or what it looked like. He couldn’t help laughing as he tried to answer what commonalities he might have with the animal.

Evidently they’re pretty tough sons of guns. That’s about all I know, really, and eat cobras. I don’t eat cobras, if you’re going to ask that question.

In all seriousness, though, Klein’s toughness – which he says is inspired by the effort of the guys on the field with him – has been a rallying point for his teammates on many occasions. Defensive end Tysyn Hartman said he has not seen Klein slide yet, which Hartman and others appreciate.

“Some of these quarterbacks, they run, they slide, give up an extra yard or two to save their bodies. He’s giving it up for the program. That’s leadership at its finest. We see him giving up his body to get those extra few yards, get the first down, and that makes us want to play harder.”

 

Kansas State vs. Texas Tech: The Breakdown

16 Oct

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

Is it really fair to keep calling the Wildcats underdogs? Week after week the line favors the other team, and week after week Kansas State finds a way to triumph. It makes many mistakes, it misses opportunities here and there, but the coaches and players overcome all that. The result? The team’s first 6-0 season since 2000, when many of the college juniors – like myself – on this year’s team were just 10 years old.

On Saturday, the Wildcats took on the Red Raiders in Lubbock. They had not won there since 1997. They hadn’t beat Texas Tech in the last five seasons. But yesterday, Kansas State did exactly that, 41-34. The team won the game and bowl eligibility even though it gave up 30 points  – only the second time that has happened in a conference road game since 1989.

During his on-field interview at the conclusion of the game, coach Bill Snyder lamented the inconsistencies of the team across the board and pointed out times the Wildcats could have put away the ball game but did not. At the end, however, he did concede this:

“A lot of it was good.”

For example, Nigel Malone’s pick-six to start the game – not the worst way in the world to grab some momentum and put a hostile crowd on its heels. Of course, two more interceptions – one by Tysyn Hartman, another by David Garrett – boosted this defense’s credentials even more. On special teams – long an emphasis of Snyder squads – the Wildcats had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Tyler Lockett, son of his school’s all-time leading receiver Kevin Lockett. (For more on Tyler, check out my AP article on him.) Oh, and Raphael Guidry blocked not one, but two field goal attempts by the Red Raiders. Offensively, there weren’t massive fireworks, but the Wildcats did score 41 points while amassing just 339 yards of offense … as opposed to Texas Tech’s 461 passing yards and 580 total yards.

Like Snyder said, though, it was not a perfect performance by any measure. The coach values discipline, and the Wildcats committed 10 penalties for 78 yards, including multiple false starts. He also wants the team to preserve a “bend but don’t break” mentality and avoid giving up the big plays that will really sink the ship. While it could be argued the Wildcats did ultimately accomplish that, the secondary got torched on several huge pass plays – including the 40-yard strike that got the Red Raiders their first six points – and the defense allowed nearly 600 yards of offense. Also, kicker Anthony Cantele missed on the extra point attempt that followed Lockett’s touchdown, and he couldn’t convert on a 31-yard field goal attempt with under five minutes to play.

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

With those pros and cons listed, here are some quick thoughts and final takeaways:

  • Can we go ahead and recognize what a talented quarterback Collin Klein is? Completing 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown is something that will catch Heisman voters’ attention, by any means, but stats mean a heck of a lot less than wins do. For example, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege connected on 43 of 63 passes for 461 yards, but he had 3 interceptions, and the Red Raiders lost. Plus, with Klein’s 110 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, he has numerically moved into the same conversation as Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, the only other two Kansas State quarterback to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Klein now has 1,002.
  • Texas Tech had 10 receivers who caught a pass of 10 or more yards. Four of those caught one for more than 15 yards. Two of those caught one for 40 or more yards. Obviously, defenses will give up a big play now and then, and those big plays are much more likely to be pass plays than run plays. But giving up 461 yards through the air is not something the Wildcats can afford to do long term. Shoring up the secondary will be key to beating teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, whom Kansas State faces in back to back weeks on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
  • Of course, since the AP now has Kansas State ranked No. 12 in the nation, that whole “underdog” persona might be difficult to hold on to, at least next week when the Wildcats face the poor, hapless Jayhawks. Obviously, the team should not overlook anyone, but if there was any team Kansas State could overlook and get away with it … Wait a minute, remember Eastern Kentucky? Better not to underestimate anyone.

Klein’s Rise: Not a Surprise

13 Oct

Photo by Jeff Tuttle / AP

Doug Klein can remember the exact day and place when he first thought that his son Collin could play Division I football.

On Sundays, the Klein family would go to church, and then the boys would settle in on the couch to watch NFL games. At halftime, they’d go play catch in the front yard. This day, Collin was the receiver and Doug was the quarterback. As a 6- or 7-year-old, Collin already knew what a slant route was, and a hitch, and a stop-and-go, and a fly, and a flag and a post – all those routes. But one of his catches in particular caught his dad’s attention.

“He ran a square-in route, and I threw him the ball, and it was a catch that you rarely see that’s even made in high school, where you reach out, you catch the ball with your hands, you look it in, all of the technical aspects of it,” said Doug, who coached for several years at the high school and collegiate levels.

“I said to myself at that point, ‘If the Lord has this planned for Collin, and it’s in his heart to do it, he can play Division I football, and he’ll do it if he wants it and if the Lord has it mapped out for him.’ And we just let it go from there. I knew he possessed the skill sets necessary to do. It was just a matter of whether the Lord would put it together for him and if it was a passion the Lord put on his heart to do. And obviously all of those pieces fell into place and here he is.”

One tough kid

With the hits the Kansas State starting quarterback has shrugged off this season on the way to rushing nearly 100 yards per game, there has been lots of talk about his toughness. His parents say that attribute is nothing new.

When he played basketball in elementary school, Collin had issues with the arches of his feet, and the doctors recommended aggressive, deep-tissue massage and bathing his feet in ice. As one might be able to imagine, that is not a pleasant treatment. In fact, it’s extremely painful. But even as a fourth- or fifth-grade kid, he had the physical and mental toughness to do what needed to be done to fix the problem, his dad said.

During his junior year of high school, Collin sustained an ankle injury during a football game. The X-ray showed no breakage, so after different treatments over the course of two weeks, Collin returned to the field, played out the rest of the season and led his team to the state championship game. Two weeks after that, basketball season started, but something wasn’t right. An MRI showed that Collin’s ankle actually had been broken. So, like all great athletes, he knows how to play through pain.

All that said, knowing that their son is strong doesn’t necessarily make it easy to watch him take the shots he does. Doug and Kelly Klein have been around football and seen their kids play it for a long time, but some worry still comes naturally. While football is a physical game in generally, the hits a quarterback takes appear – and in some cases are truly – a little bit different.

“His are more often very visible, number one,” Doug said. “Number two, they’re usually in space, with a lot of momentum, so the velocity and all that kind of thing is a lot more intense. It’s different, I will tell you that. It’s different watching them go through that. But like I said, I understand it.”

A lifetime love

Aside from his athletic ability and toughness, Collin just loves the game, his parents said, and always has.

As a sixth grader, Collin served as defensive coordinator for his younger brother’s football team. He would draw up plays and coach the kids who were just a couple years younger than him. That defense didn’t allow a touchdown all season long.

Some kids make doodles in the margins of their papers at school. On Collin’s papers, it wouldn’t be unusual to find a football play drawn up on the side, Kelly said.

“He loved the pace and the strategy of football,” she said. “As a quarterback, you’re always reading defenses, you’re always planning. The strategy. He loves the strategy of football. He’s a very smart football player, so he really picked up on that, the strategy of it.”

Looking forward

Collin is only a junior, so it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish going forward this season as well as his senior year. With teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the 2011 schedule – besides the opponents the Wildcats have already faced – Collin and Kansas State as a whole have a chance to prove themselves on a very high level.

What’s more, Collin’s brother Kyle is a freshman on the team this year. His parents anticipate watching Kyle’s story unfold just like Collin’s has. If what we’re seeing now is any indication of the impact another Klein could have, that’s very good for Kansas State.

Grading the Wildcats: Game 4

2 Oct

Even after a big win at Miami, people doubted Kansas State's defense. After containing the nation's No. 2 offense, they shouldn't be skeptical anymore. (Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)

The Wildcats may not have 4- of 5-star recruits, but they have heart. I think that’s the only conclusion to which one can come after watching Kansas State surmount deficits week after week – most recently a 9-point fourth quarter hole against Baylor – to go 4-0 to start the season. Here’s my evaluation of the different units in Saturday’s game.

Offense: B+

Collin Klein is not Robert Griffin III, but he had another solid, gritty performance on Saturday, and once again, his team won. He completed 13 of 28 passes – slightly under 50 percent – for 146 yards and threw one interception, but his north-and-south running netted the Wildcats another 113 yards. Running backs John Hubert and Angelo Pease did not gain 100 yards combined, but they complemented each other well and each had a long run and a touchdown. Klein utilized Hubert as a receiver as well as a runner, but he also involved wide receiver Chris Harper and tight end Andre McDonald.

While totaling 356 yards of offense, Kansas State kept Baylor’s offense off the field for 38 minutes and 47 seconds. That did not make the defense’s job easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it helped.

Of course, the Wildcats did not punch the ball in the way they should have, settling for two field goals in the first half. If they can put it in the end zone in those situations, it’s 21-7 going into the second quarter instead of 13-7.

All in all, the team did what it could do – not necessarily to the very best of its abilities, but it moved the ball in a steady, workmanlike manner and got the job done.

Defense: B+

Kansas State gave up numerous big plays to Baylor, who scored touchdowns on a 43-yard pass, 42-yard pass, 35-yard pass and 34-yard pass from Griffin throughout the game. The secondary got outrun on too many occasions than is normally workable. However, the defense also sacked Griffin five times and forced him into eight incompletions and an interception. That interception was just one of the Bear’s three turnovers – the Wildcats also recovered two fumbles by Baylor. They held the Bears’ prolific offense to only 429 yards … a massive improvement from the 638 yards the Wildcats allowed Baylor last season.

There have been skeptics of the Kansas State defense … after the first two games, even after the Miami game. I don’t know how skeptical people can be now, though.

Special Teams: C+

The special teams unit got off to a great start by forcing Baylor to fumble on a kickoff return. However, it waffled throughout the game. Kicker Anthony Cantele made three field goals, including the game-winner. On the other hand, Baylor had decent-to-good field possession on several occasions, including once after Kansas State allowed a 42-yard return.