A star who defies mold
Unlikely success propels QB Klein to Heisman stage.
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.