If you sit down and pick apart Collin Klein’s life, it’s hard to find something that he does not do, as head football coach Bill Snyder would say, exceptionally well.
The Associated Press named Klein the First Team All-Big 12 last year after one of the greatest seasons by a single player in K-State history, in which he threw for over 1,900 yards with 13 touchdowns and ran for over 1,100 yards with 27 touchdowns. So he plays football well.
He has been named a Second Team All-Big 12 academic selection the past two seasons, and he has already graduated with a degree in finance. So he does school well.
He is known as one of the most religious players on the team, and a running joke amongst K-State fans — which is also true — is that despite his high level of enthusiasm on the field, he never curses. So he’s a pretty stand-up guy, too.
His younger brother Kyle, a freshman, followed Klein to K-State to be a wide receiver. And this past summer in Dallas, just two days before the Big 12 media days, Klein was married to Shalin Spani, a former K-State women’s basketball standout and the daughter of Gary Spani, a former K-State and Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer.
He is even a talented musician, playing the piano, violin and mandolin.
So as Klein prepares for what will be his last season in Manhattan, Snyder has faith that his quarterback will be able to handle the challenges this season will bring.
“Collin is a wonderful young person,” Snyder said. “He has made tremendous improvement during his time in the program. And it’s happened because of the quality of person that Collin is. Collin is one of those guys – he’s one of those young guys truly committed.”
This summer, in an attempt to improve his throwing abilities, Klein attended the Manning Passing Academy along with notable quarterbacks such as USC’s Matt Barkley, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Alabama’s AJ McCarron.
“I’ve done some things to help get myself better,” Klein said. “The final grade is on Saturday, so we’ll see how that goes. I mean, I’m taking advantage of some opportunities to get better, but we’ll see if it pays off.”
His on-field performances clearly stand out. But when you ask the players on K-State’s roster what stands out the most about Klein, they list not his abilities as a football player, but his abilities as a leader and a person.
“Aside from his obvious athletic ability, he’s so humble,” safety Ty Zimmerman said. “He’s so consistent. You’re not going to get a different Collin Klein on Monday than you will on Tuesday. He shows up every day willing to work. He puts in extra time in the film room, stays after and throws routes with people. And the fact that he’s tough. He finds a way to make plays.”
His toughness became clear last season as he not only never took a quarterback slide for his own protection, but after a sloppy win against the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Snyder announced to the media that Klein had not practiced in two weeks due to the punishment he had taken each Saturday on the field.
Zimmerman didn’t think that anybody else in the entire conference had the fortitude or the determination to fight through the way Klein did last year.
“I might be biased in my opinion, and I can’t really speak on other opponents, but I know Collin is ready and willing to take that load week in and week out,” Zimmerman said.
So this year, the K-State defense is taking a new approach to preparing Klein for the physical toll he’ll take this season.
“The biggest thing is to hit him,” linebacker Tre Walker said. “I don’t mean that in any type of bad way, but that’s how you get him prepared. When you blitz off that line, you do everything in your power to intercept every ball. You do everything in your power to strip the ball from him. You do everything in your power to hit him and get in his face, but that’s what other teams are going to try to do.”
Another player with a high level of respect for Klein is one of his biggest opponents on the field. Quarterback Landry Jones of the Oklahoma Sooners, who will host Klein and the Wildcats in Norman for the Big 12 opener on Sep. 22 and was also married this summer, sees him as one of the biggest physical presences in football.
“Everybody talks about his size and his strength and him being able to run and stuff and him being able to pass,” Jones said. “He’s an exciting player to watch, definitely a tough kid for sure. He gets a lot of those tough yards, and he’s so big in the open field that he’s tough to bring down. He’s bigger than every DB in the conference basically.”
Now, as the season approaches, Klein will continue to be asked to balance the pressures of the team, his faith, his new family and school. And Snyder believes Klein is one of the most ready and willing people to do so.
“There’s one segment that he hasn’t [done] yet, and that’s marriage. He’s just getting into that,” Snyder said. “That remains to be seen, but to me it’s a wonderful match. I think he and Shalin get along extremely well. Collin is a very mature young guy, and I don’t want to take him for granted. That wouldn’t be fair to him. But I think he has the opportunities and the capabilities to be successful.”
Sean Frye is a junior in mass communications. Please send comments to [email protected]