Chris Harper didn’t think it was real and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder didn’t even know about it.
Yet by midday Tuesday, K-State quarterback Collin Klein was already being celebrated as the latest athlete featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands this week.
The headline on the cover is “27 things you need to know about the best player on the nation’s best team.”
“That was real?” Harper asked. “I thought it was Photoshop or something.”
No. It’s very real and Klein is the first Wildcat to appear on the SI cover since Jacob Pullen during the 2010-11 basketball season.
“It’s pretty cool,” Klein said of the cover on Tuesday. “You always see that kind of stuff growing up, but at the same time, I’m just trying to take care of my, and our business here — just trying to take one more step.”
The next step for Harper is to get an autograph.
“That’s tight,” he said. “I have to get one of those… I’ll probably get it signed by him. That’s a big deal.”
But Harper also knows being on the cover of SI won’t change Klein.
“That’s big with people giving us attention now, but he’s the most humble dude you’ll ever meet,” he said. “It won’t get to his head or anything like that. He’ll probably come out and play better, play stronger and prove all those guys right about what they’re saying about him now.”
Klein, who is considered the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, said he and his teammates will share in the SI cover, but at the end of the day, nothing changes for the Wildcats.
“It’ll be talked about for sure, there will be some jokes and we’ll have fun with it as a team with the guys,” he said. “But at the same time, the heart behind that, from all of our perspectives, whoever the publicity is being focused on at that time, it’s about us and what we’re trying to do. It’s about us trying to be the best we can possibly be.
“We’re just trying to enjoy the ride, myself included. But because of the grounding and the focus of our team and the true family-like atmosphere here, it’s about us and what we’re trying to do.”
The Wildcats (10-0, 7-0) aren’t only trying to balance the SI attention, but also the new pressures of the media blitz that comes with being the top-ranked team in the BCS. K-State took over the No. 1 spot after defeating TCU last Saturday, coupled with Texas A&M’s upset win at Alabama.
“We expected to be here,” Harper said. “This is not a coincidence. This isn’t a shock to be here because we’ve prepared for it. Being able to handle it is a different thing because nobody’s been here before. It’s about staying humble and keep doing what you’ve been doing to get to that position.”
Up next for the Wildcats is a date at Baylor this Saturday night at 7, televised nationally on EPSN. With two games to go, all the Wildcats need to do is win and they’ll be able to book their trip to Miami to play in the national title game Jan. 7.
But saying that and doing that are two different things, especially with the eyes of the nation now firmly planted on the Wildcats.
Klein said nothing is accomplished yet, despite K-State being ranked No. 1 in the BCS for the first time in school history. The deal isn’t done. Just ask the Alabama team that watched its title hopes dashed last weekend.
“It’s about understanding that it doesn’t matter where you’re at in those standings until January 10 or whenever it’s all said and done,” he said. “That’s all that matters. It’s a pretty fragile thing. If you don’t take care of business, any team in our conference and any team you play is going is capable of beating you. We understand that.”
“We are nothing,” he said. “I don’t care. The only time being number one matters is at the end of the season when a team wins a national championship.”