Kyle Klein admits that on occasion Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder slips up and sometimes calls him Collin.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Collin Klein is now gone — they could have used him the last few weeks — but his younger brother Kyle is quickly moving up the depth chart at receiver and is ready to put his stamp on the K-State program.
Kyle, a redshirt-sophomore, caught the first three passes of his career last Saturday, finishing with 34 yards in the Wildcats’ 33-29 loss at Oklahoma State.
The younger Klein could be asked to do even more this Saturday when K-State hosts No. 15 Baylor at 2:30 p.m. on FOX, especially if Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are unavailable. Lockett pulled up limp on a long pass play early in the second quarter and never returned, while Thompson was held out of the game entirely for undisclosed reasons. Their statuses for Saturday are still unknown.
‘It’s an opportunity I’ve been wanting,’ said Klein, who moved to receiver from defensive end following his redshirt year. ‘I’ve been in the program a few years now and everyone wants to get their shot. Obviously, I don’t want to see the guys in front of me get injured and banged up, but when I get my shot, it’s time for me to step up and I’m very excited about that.’
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Klein was just one of many faces who got that shot at receiver last Saturday, joining Torell Miller, Deante Burton, Stephen Johnson and even running back Robert Rose off the bench to fill in for the Wildcats’ two missing stars.
‘They’re good young guys and they’re conscientious and they work extremely hard,’ Snyder said Tuesday. ‘There’s a reason why the other two were starters — these young guys just haven’t had the experience, and all of a sudden they’re on the field.
‘We had five receivers on the field at one time last week and I’m not sure I knew all of them. We have just kind of been hitting down in the depth chart, but they are good young guys and they work hard and do things the right way.’
Obviously uncomfortable with his extended opportunity coming at the expense of injured teammates, Klein said it was a valuable experience against Oklahoma State.
‘It was a learning experience, and looking at film I saw there were definitely things I need to do better,’ said Klein, who was a tight end and safety at Loveland (Colo.) High. ‘It was nice to see an extended period of time to self-evaluate and learn.’
Klein was recruited to K-State as sort of a hybrid standup defensive end/linebacker and then moved exclusively to defensive end. Eventually he was moved to tight end, but that experiment landed him where he is today at receiver. Now in the program four years because of his initial grayshirt year as well, Klein has had the opportunity to learn the receiver position from some of the best.
‘I’ve had some really good receivers in front me — Chris Harper, Tramaine, Tyler — and I’ve watched some film on Jordy Nelson too just to see what they do,’ Klein said. ‘The best way to learn is to watch people who are good at it.’
Klein chose the Wildcats over interest from Colorado State, Colorado, Wyoming, Bowling Green and Eastern Washington, but said he knew K-State was the right fit from almost the beginning.
‘A lot of those other programs wanted to do a preferred walk-on, which I couldn’t afford,’ he said. ‘K-State was a great fit because my brother was here and Coach Snyder had just come back — and everyone and their mother knows about Coach Snyder. It was exciting to be able to play under him. This was the best fit and I’m glad I ended up here.’
Though playing with his older brother was a draw, there’s no disputing there are certain expectations that now could come with being another Klein in the K-State program. Lockett has had to deal with those same things, following his father Kevin and uncle Aaron, who are two of the best receivers to ever play at K-State.
In Klein’s case, he’s not just following the Wildcats’ starting the quarterback the past two seasons, but a Heisman Trophy finalist who might be the most recognizable K-State athlete in any sport in recent memory.
The younger Klein said he feels no pressure to live up to the legacy his brother created here because he wants to create his own someday.
‘I don’t feel like I have to at all,’ he said. ‘He’s always been good at whatever he did, and he was his own person, his own player, and I was mine, and I’ve been grateful for that.
‘It’s allowed me to really enjoy his success and be happy for him without the pressure of feeling like I have to pick up where my brother left off.’
But its also nice having his brother around some still to talk a little football. Collin and the rest of the Klein family was in Stillwater this past week to watch Kyle snag his firstcareer receptions.
‘We talk a couple times a week and see him whenever I can,’ he said. ‘We’ve always been really close and that hasn’t changed, even though he’s not playing with me anymore. We’ll talk, I’ll tell him how practice went. You know, he’s my big brother.’