With Collin Klein under center, Kansas State had an incredible run. Two seasons ago, the Heisman finalist steered the offense with a mix of athletic ability and guts that wore on defenses like relentless and unmerciful body blows. It had the Wildcats in the mix for a national championship, ranked No. 1 in the BCS late in the season, as Klein’s celebrity exploded.
But as the NFL opportunities faded away, the leader on the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium got the opportunity to return as a graduate assistant coach. And the allure of returning to the football family in Manhattan was the same thing that made his time as a player memorable.
“I think it is just the people,” said Klein. “The people are just amazing and to still be around there is special.”
While the current chapter of his football career is new, leadership is certainly nothing new to Klein. Knowing the Xs and Os is only half the battle. The communication and ability to keep the team moving in the same direction were skills that separated him from the pack on the field. They are skills he will use in the transition to coaching. However there is a lot of unknown approaching the game from a different angle.
But in the second year of the Collin Klein Passing Academy, coaching ability and the rewards that come with imparting wisdom are taking shape.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Klein. “All these kids work so hard and being able to see their eyes kind of light up when they make a play or when they get what you are trying to teach them it’s pretty special. It’s really cool.”
Not many people can handle the amount of fame Klein had to deal with in college. But he kept his feet on the ground and kept the same approach late in the season with a national championship in the picture as the team had at the beginning of the year when the Wildcats were not in the conversation to win a Big XII title.
This year, K-State is picked to finish third in the league, which is a marked improvement from Klein’s playing days. The approach to the 2014 season will be the same for Coach Klein as the former quarterback.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” said Klein. “It’s a standard coaching answer, but it’s the truth because it’s a long season, it’s going to be a grind and we’ll just do the best we can.”
And the ability to keep the team together will be crucial.
“It’s the difference,” said Klein. “It will be the difference between success or not. Wins and losses come down to that level of continuity, that level of toughness, that level of togetherness, and it’s going to be a journey.”