Collin Klein was really no different than any other kid.
Most young athletes hope to play in college someday, maybe even professionally, or perhaps even win the Heisman Trophy.
“If you were to interview 10 kids playing football on the playground when they are young, they will probably all answer that question, ‘Hey, I want to play for a national championship or win a conference championship or win the Heisman,’ or stuff of that nature,” the Kansas State quarterback said Tuesday. “I think I was no different than that.”
Only, in Klein’s case, it all might happen after being named one of three Heisman finalists on Monday.
“It’s funny, my mom was actually digging through some of my stuff recently — this was when I was a sophomore or junior in high school — she found a little sheet of paper that I had written down some goals on,” said Klein, who learned of the honor Monday when shopping for dress clothes with his wife Shalin. “(Winning the Heisman) was one of those things that I had written down on that paper. I had completely forgotten about it.”
One thing that won’t soon be forgotten was Klein’s final home game last Saturday night when he guided the Wildcats to a 42-24 win over Texas to win the Big 12 championship. He scored three touchdowns and accounted for 287 yards in his closing argument for the Heisman, so to speak.
So did Klein consider striking the Heisman pose after scoring on a 9-yard rush in the final two minutes of the game?
“A lot of the guys were giving me a hard time toward the end of the game, encouraging me to do that if I found the end zone that last time,” Klein joked. “But that night and that game was about K-State and it was about a family Big 12 championship. It needed to stay that way.”
Those who know Klein, know that’s just not his style. After all, it was all Klein could do to deflect the Heisman attention all season, especially when he was the frontrunner for six straight weeks at one point.
For Klein, the possibility of winning the Heisman Trophy is about something more. It’s not an award or honor he wants to define him in the end. Klein wants his legacy at K-State to stand for more than that, something bigger and not measured by a trophy.
“I was very blessed and have been very blessed that people in my life, my parents, Coach Snyder and especially the foundation of my faith, to put into perspective of what is truly important,” he said. “That has been trying to be the best I can be with what God has 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.
“Those people are my teammates and the people around here, and that will leave a longer legacy than any award, even as prestigious as the Heisman. With that perspective and knowing that, it kind of puts it all in order for me.”
Nevertheless, Klein will be in New York this Saturday night, on one of the game’s biggest stages, with fellow finalists Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.
And though Manziel appears to be the favorite to win, Klein said he is blessed to represent the Little Apple in the Big Apple, no matter the outcome.
Klein’s trip to New York embodies the path of the entire Wildcat program. Signed as a pocket passer, turned into a receiver and then into a dual-threat quarterback, it would have been a stretch to envision Klein as a legitimate Heisman hopeful when he began at K-State five years ago.
Similarly, the Wildcats have put together a season many thought was impossible. They were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 and yet climbed to No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history this season, won the conference title and earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I’m proud to represent the K-State family and in a lot of ways, the K-State way,” said Klein, who has 3,470 yards of offense and 37 total touchdowns this season. “It was a lot of hard work over time when nobody expects or foresees you doing something and then you’re able to do it. It’s similar to our team this year… Things like that are representative and indicative of my walk here and my journey here.”
It’s because of that the senior quarterback wishes all of his teammates could make the journey east as well.
“I wear the Powercat and represent every single one of my teammates and I wish every single one of them could be there with me and to share in it, because it very much is a team award as well,” he said. “I’m very proud that I’m able to represent my team and my teammates in this way.”