Klein Took Road Less Traveled

Almost zero Division I colleges wanted Collin Klein to be a quarterback.

Kansas State and Colorado State were said to be the only two schools offering scholarships in 2008 to what was then a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder in need of a bunch of polish.

The coach who wound up giving him one was out of a job the next year.

K-State moved Klein to receiver where he caught six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown his redshirt freshman season.

It wasn’t until depth became an issue that the Wildcats moved Klein back to the quarterback position, a spot at which he has flourished in Manhattan, Kan., despite a throwing motion that puts you a little in mind of Charles Barkley’s golf swing.

He’s the grandson of a barber who has learned to play the piano, mandolin, and the violin, an unusual resume for someone who today is the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

After a game Saturday night against West Virginia where he completed 19 of 21 passes for a career-best 323 yards and three touchdowns, plus 41 rushing yards and three more scores, Klein, quirky throwing motion and all, is the second-most efficient quarterback in the FBS, where he is completing 70.5 percent of his passes.

NFL scouts might cover their eyes watching the hitch in his throw and one of them might lose their job if they draft him.

(I’m envisioning a scenario where’s he’s picked as a backup quarterback who takes over the starting spot, leads his team to a playoff victory against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, then gets traded to a team that already has a ”franchise” quarterback, and analysts spend countless hours talking about when he’ll get his next chance).

Anyway, for the college game, his delivery is no biggie.

”You can say what you want about his throwing motion,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said, ”but it goes exactly where he wants it to go. He’s a good football player.”

Indeed, if you’re not putting up gaudy stats – and his night against WVU notwithstanding, Klein generally doesn’t – you better bring plenty of other stuff to the table if you’re wanting to be mentioned in a conversation about college football’s ultimate individual prize.

Klein has two pockets full of intangibles.

He doesn’t look much better as a runner with the kind of long strides only a 6-5 quarterback can make, but he’s probably the most productive player in college football today.

Need a first down? He’ll get it. Need a clutch pass? He’ll hit the receiver between the numbers? Need a rushing score inside the 10? Klein can’t – and won’t – be stopped.

But he wows no one.

Even after the WVU game, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder wasn’t overly impressed. There are a couple reasons for that. 1) At 73, Snyder isn’t prone to hyperbole. 2). He’s seen Klein do things like this for some time.

”Collin was Collin,” Klein said.

For all of this, the HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll and the ESPN experts all have Klein as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman at this point, as he swooped past the Mountaineers’ Geno Smith, who has fallen dramatically in the past two weeks.

Understand neither of these polls mean a whole lot midway through the season. We’ve seen how fickle they are from one week to the next. And none of the Heisman voters has to be told who to vote for. They can cast their lot with whomever they want.

For the moment though, you’d have to give Klein, a player who simply gets things done, the edge.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net