A star who de­fies mold

Un­likely success pro­pels QB Klein to Heis­man stage.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

MAN­HAT­TAN, KAN. — Collin Klein is the Heis­man Tro­phy fi­nal­ist who fits no mold.

He was lightly re­cruited out of high school and ul­ti­mately chose to at­tend Kansas State, a pro­gram that had fallen on hard times. He was turned into a re­ceiver, then went back to be­ing a quar­ter­back, where he sat on the bench and bided his time.

It fi­nally came last year, when he led the Wild­cats to the Cot­ton Bowl, his bruises and bloody el­bows and gritty tough­ness cre­at­ing some­thing that bor­dered on a cult fol­low­ing in the heart of the Flint Hills.

There’s more to Klein, too, that stands out of the or­di­nary. The guy plays the pi­ano and the man­dolin — how many col­lege kids even know what a man­dolin looks like?

“He’s a great story, and it’s a story that will evolve over time, as we get old,” said Kansas State wide re­ceiver Chris Harper. “It’s a story about a guy that was hum­ble, one of the most hum­ble guys you’ll ever meet.”

Harper cer­tainly knows who would get his vote for col­lege foot­ball’s most pres­ti­gious award, and it wouldn’t be Texas A&M quar­ter­back Johnny Manziel or Notre Dame line­backer Manti Te’o, though he ad­mits that both other Heis­man fi­nal­ists are de­serv­ing of ev­ery­thing that’s come their way.

It would be the fifthyear se­nior who led a rag­tag group of guys pre­dicted to fin­ish some­where in the mid­dle of the Big 12 to the sec­ond Big 12 ti­tle in school his­tory and a berth in the Fi­esta Bowl. The kid from Love­land, Colo., with the nick­name “Op­ti­mus Klein.”

“In my vote, he should get it,” Harper said of the Heis­man Tro­phy, which will be awarded Satur­day night in New York. “Be­ing a bi­ased guy watch­ing foot­ball, the dude — he’s done some crazy things. I don’t un­der­stand how he goes out there and has one bad game and he’s al­ready out of it. … I thought it went off the whole sea­son.”

Yes, therein lays the big­gest knock. Re­mark­ably con­sis­tent all sea­son, Klein had driven the Wild­cats to the top of the BCS stand­ings with two games left, a berth in the na­tional cham­pi­onship game tan­ta­liz­ingly close. But he re­sponded with a three-in­ter­cep­tion game in a loss at Bay­lor, and all those as­pi­ra­tions were dashed in just one night.

Most peo­ple thought Klein’s Heis­man hopes went with them.

But with Manziel and Te’o hav­ing al­ready fin­ished their reg­u­lar sea­sons, Klein took the field last Satur­day night with a na­tional au­di­ence, need­ing to lead Kansas State past Texas to win the Big 12 ti­tle. He threw for 184 yards and a touch­down and ran for an­other 103 yards and two scores in a 42-24 romp.

“Well, I don’t know about ev­ery­body else, but I don’t know any­body who means more to his foot­ball team than Collin Klein,” Kansas State coach Bill Sny­der said. “I think he’s grown in the pro­gram over the course of time.”

This Pitts­burgh’s iron­man is out on Sun­day against the Charg­ers. The fran­chise quar­ter­back might be, too.

Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin said Tues­day that cor­ner­back Ike Tay­lor’s 135-game streak will end af­ter Tay­lor sus­tained a frac­tured right an­kle in Sun­day’s win over Baltimore. Tay­lor will likely be out at least two weeks, hand­ing the start­ing job to sec­ond-year de­fen­sive back Cortez Allen.

Tom­lin is a lit­tle more op­ti­mistic Ben Roeth­lis­berger’s sprained right shoul­der will be good enough to play for the first time in nearly a month. Roeth­lis­berger threw on Mon­day but Tom­lin said it’s still too early to tell whether he will be avail­able Sun­day.

Char­lie Batch will take the ma­jor­ity of snaps with the first team to­day, a day Tom­lin said will be crit­i­cal in de­ter­min­ing Roeth­lis­berger’s sta­tus.

Ben­gals: Rookie wide re­ceiver Mo­hamed Sanu (stress frac­ture in left foot) was placed on in­jured re­serve and rookie run­ning back Dan Her­ron was ac­ti­vated from the prac­tice squad.

Browns: A new re­al­ity TV se­ries, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleve­land Browns,” pre­miered Tues­day on the Travel Chan­nel. The five-part se­ries will in­clude features on play­ers and show the in­ner work­ings of the team dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. A film crew went to former Longhorns kicker Phil Daw­son’s home in Austin, Texas.

Car­di­nals: Former All-Pro tight end Todd Heap was re­leased. To fill the ros­ter spot, Ari­zona signed former San Diego tight end Kory Sperry.

■ Safety Kerry Rhodes con­firmed he had a runin with team­mate Dar­nell Dock­ett af­ter Sun­day’s game but said re­ports that Dock­ett had spit in his face were wrong.

Giants: Tackle Sean Lock­lear suf­fered a se­ri­ous knee in­jury Mon­day night that will re­quire surgery.

Jaguars: Line­backer Clint Ses­sion was waived af­ter three con­cus­sions. He signed a five-year deal in July 2011 worth $30 mil­lion, with $11.5 mil­lion guar­an­teed. The Jags also waived tight end Mau­rice Sto­vall and signed full­back Will Ta’ofu’ou to the prac­tice squad.

Lions: A Mo­bile, Ala., judge dis­missed a misdemeanor mar­i­juana charge against de­fen­sive tackle Nick Fair­ley.

Pack­ers: Hall of Fame quar­ter­back Bart Starr, 78, col­lapsed dur­ing a speech in Madi­son, Wis. Con­fer­ence or­ga­niz­ers said he ap­pears to be OK.

Pa­tri­ots: Re­ceiver/ punt re­turner Ju­lian Edel­man (foot) was placed on in­jured re­serve and Donte’ Stall­worth was signed to fill the po­si­tion.

Raiders: The fa­ther of coach Dennis Allen died. Former NFL line­backer Grady Allen, 66, died overnight in Almeda from car­diac ar­rest.

Red­skins: Former UT cor­ner­back Cedric Grif­fin was sus­pended four games with­out pay for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s pol­icy on per­for­mance en­hanc­ing sub­stances.

Seahawks: Re­ceiver Bray­lon Ed­wards was re­leased. Also, left guard James Car­pen­ter was put on the sea­son-end­ing re­serve/non-foot­ball ill­ness list.

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