MANHATTAN, Kan. — Just in case the Kansas State football team needed more attention than climbing to the top of the Bowl Championship Series standings provided, Sports Illustrated shined a bright light on the program by putting Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein on the cover of its latest issue.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
Under the headline “27 things you need to know about the best player on the nation’s best team,” is a picture of Klein preparing to throw a pass.
Digital copies of the cover were shared across the Internet on Tuesday, causing some fans to rejoice. Others seemed annoyed, worrying that K-State will fall victim to the dreaded SI jinx.
As for the cover boy himself, well, his emotions were no different than usual.
“Oh, it’s pretty cool,” Klein said. “You always see that kind of stuff growing up and what have you, but at the same time I’m just trying to take care of my and our business here and take one more step.”
That’s the approach everyone associated with the Wildcats is trying to take this week as they prepare to play Baylor on Saturday. Even though K-State is new to this situation, the Wildcats know what it takes to win. At 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the Big 12, they are one victory shy of a Big 12 championship and likely two victories away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game. But they say they are treating Baylor the same way they treat every opponent.
Right now, the Bears are all that matters.
“Everybody on the team understands that,” K-State receiver Chris Harper said.
That might be a difficult lesson for some college football teams to learn, but not for K-State. When top-ranked Alabama lost to Texas A&M on Saturday, making room for the Wildcats to move up to No. 1 in the BCS and No. 2 in the polls, coach Bill Snyder said he had no thoughts on the soon-to-be-released BCS standings. On Monday, he gave in and admitted that he was “honored” and “pleased” by K-State’s accomplishment, but said it didn’t change his daily routine.
When he met with players later that afternoon, he barely broached the topic.
“We talked a little about Veterans Day,” Snyder said. “Over the weekend it kind of gets lost in the shuffle.”
Also somewhat lost in the shuffle was Klein’s comeback from injury. He started against TCU, but gained fewer yards than he had all season after returning from an undisclosed injury the week before that caused him to miss the second half. Klein, who many consider the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy, threw for 145 yards and rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns against TCU. He also tossed his first interception since Big 12 play began.
He showed obvious signs of rust against a strong defense.
“It’s the hand you are dealt,” Klein said. “You’ve just got to do the best you possibly can and try to get yourself better and try to contribute in any way, shape or form. No one likes to get hurt, but that is part of the game and part of the deal. I’m just glad that I’m back.”
Klein feels healthier today, and is about to face a defense that is allowing nearly 520 yards per game. But Baylor will likely give him its best shot. His teammates think he will be ready.
“People are giving us attention now, but he is the most humble dude you will ever meet,” Harper said. “It’s not going to get to his head or anything like that. He is probably going to come out and play better and play stronger and prove all those guys right for what they are saying about him now.”
Klein also was presented with a surprise award at Bergman Elementary School on Tuesday. Allstate’s Brian Green gave Klein the AFCA Good Works Team honor, awarded annually to college football players who show character and leadership in the community. He seemed more excited about that than the SI cover.
“When you do serve and try to help people out it is never with any thought of being recognized or that part of it,” Klein said. “But it is greatly appreciated and an honor to be recognized in that capacity.”
Check Kellis Robinett’s K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.