The last time Kansas State football held up the Big 12 Conference Championship trophy was in 2012. In that same year, K-State also achieved its most recent No. 1 ranking and stood in a position to compete for a national championship.
That team was led by a Heisman finalist quarterback that is known not only by K-State fans, but also by the college football world — Collin Klein.
Times are changing now under the leadership of current head coach Chris Klieman, but under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder’s tenure, Klein was the quarterback Wildcat Land needed.
He did not have a big arm. He was not going to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. Not every college football team would have wanted him. He was strong and athletic though, and he didn’t care how many big hits he had to take. By the fourth quarter, his elbows would be spotted with blood from hard tackles.
He was in command — keeping his offense on the field to control the game.
But Klein was not done with K-State after he graduated. After going undrafted, he signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Texans — though it didn’t last long. Klein then had a short stint with the Wildcats in 2014 and 2015 as assistant director of recruiting and an offensive graduate assistant.
After those two years, Klein became the quarterbacks coach at Northern Iowa in 2016.
That time at Northern Iowa was also short-lived. In 2017, Klein returned to Manhattan to serve as the quarterbacks coach under Snyder. Now, he gets to help develop quarterbacks to try, shaping them to make the same impact he made on the field eight years ago.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Klein said.
The former Heisman candidate has plenty of history to look at every day in the Vanier Family Football Complex when he goes into work.
“It hits me every day to be able to walk into work and to be able to reflect on all the amazing things that have happened here [at K-State] in the last 10, 12 years,” Klein said.
In his second season under Klieman, things are still different for Klein, but he said he is excited to be a part of Klieman’s staff and the future of the program.
“Being able to be a part of this program now in a different role is unbelievable,” Klein said.
The reigning Big 12 champion is now helping dual-threat quarterback Skylar Thompson get ready for his senior season. Klein praised Thompson, saying he is among the Top 25 quarterbacks in college football.
“He is extremely competitive,” Klein said. “He wants to be the best. He works as he wants and he strives to be the best. He wants to win, he is a team guy, he cares about his teammates, he prepares well. He has the natural ability on top of those things — that is a good combination.”
Klein and Thompson have multiple things in common that help their player/coach relationship — they are talented individuals that rely on their faith and are always happy to work with each other.
“Being able to use what God has given us to do in this game of football [is great], and [we’re] here at K-State for a bigger purpose,” Klein said. “Couldn’t have it any better.”