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 wide receiver, and 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 married to the daughter of one of the greatest players in Kansas State history, but when they gather for the holidays, they prefer card games to dwelling on the pressures of big-time football.
“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 of the other Heisman finalists are deserving of everything that’s come their way.
It would be the fifth-year 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.”