Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City
By SEAN KEELER  |  Last updated 11/19/13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The cover boy is in football's margins now, trying to reconcile the fact that he's at a place he absolutely loves and a place he absolutely hates, all in the same breath. "It's definitely been hard," Collin Klein says. "But everything happens for a reason. I just have to make sure to control what I can and to be ready when I get a chance." A year ago -- Nov. 19, 2012 -- the former Kansas State quarterback was splashed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a Heisman Trophy favorite, the All-American kid with the All-American game, the All-American smile, the All-American story. But for much of 2013, to the decision-makers in the National Football League, he's been just another Face In The Crowd. "I didn't even think about that," Klein says. "I mean, we've definitely covered some ground since then." Since last Nov. 20, a timeshare atop the mountain has been replaced by a roller coaster, supplanted by peaks and valleys. His team snatched up a Big 12 title but lost a Fiesta Bowl. Klein was invited to New York City as a Heisman finalist but wound up third in the voting, and the two players who finished in front of him wound up knee-deep in some kind of ignominious controversy not long after. In April, Klein went undrafted but was invited to camp with the Houston Texans. In May, Klein was let go by the Texans and told to hang loose, but the phone has been a little too quiet since. Maybe there's something to that so-called "cover jinx" after all. "I feel like I put my best foot forward (with Houston)," says Klein, who's in Manhattan this fall, working part time in the K-State athletic department as a development assistant. "They've stayed in fairly regular contact since then. But I was very grateful they gave me the opportunity." It's not that doors have been closed. It's just that the knocking has been sporadic, at best, from an NFL standpoint. "I'm surprised, but like I said, everything works out for the good," says Tyler Lockett, one of Klein's favorite targets last fall. "And eventually, I believe a team will give him a shot .... Whatever he decided to do, he's going to stick with it and he's going to be great at it." "I know that his heart is set on the NFL," says Collin's father, Doug, "and he's going to try to make that work at any length." Still, out of sight, out of mind -- there's no simulation that can match live game conditions, no substitute for professional game tape. Collin's management team in Colorado has reached out to Canada, and "Canada has reached out to us," he says. "It's just, again, trying to make sure that you're taking the right opportunity at the right time." And the right position. Last February, NFL.com reported that the 6-foot-5 Wildcat had been invited to work out as a tight end for scouts at the NFL Combine, fearful of his throwing mechanics, but declined. "No one has approached me about doing (a switch)," Collin says. "And my heart is with playing quarterback." His regimen is about staying tight, lifting in the morning while his former teammates are in class. He spends the rest of the day juggling whatever administrative tasks come his way. "(It's) kind of whatever, wherever, whenever," says Collin, who holds an undergraduate degree in finance. "I've mainly done everything from donor relations to office organizational work, (and) some special projects. It's just kind of the whole gamut." And while coaching may be in the future, it isn't a part of the present. "No," Collin says. "(The Wildcat coaches) have been very supportive of what I'm trying to do and where I'm trying to get to. It hasn't been the situation where I (got) a formal offer, I guess, either way -- me asking or them offering. They've just been there to support me and what I'm trying to do." Old habits -- and old loyalties -- die hard. Little brother Kyle is a sophomore wide receiver on the team, and Collin spoke to the squad before their trip to Texas on Sept. 21. He casts a large shadow around the Vanier Football Complex, literally and figuratively, but this is Jake Waters' team, Daniel Sams' team. Their time. "There's definitely a balance there," Collin says. "I do want to help, and obviously do everything I can. At the same time, it's their team, their deal, and I just want to support them in that. Whatever I can do." He's been there. The good. The bad. All the crazy points in between. And nothing crazier than a year ago this week, when the Wildcats took a 10-0 record into Baylor, only to be ambushed, 52-24. "It feels like an entire lifetime (ago)," Doug says with a chuckle. "I don't think I could capsulize it into one event or one thing. The entire season was just phenomenal. And as I walk around and we play these teams again, I don't think we'll ever look at Baylor the same, I can tell you that right now. "It was just an incredible year. It really was. And watching him just finish out his career and do it in the way and the fashion that he did it personally, and the way the team did it collectively, was just really special. Those years, they don't come around very often." SI covers don't, either. The magazine sent the Kleins a box full of copies, at least 100 deep. Doug has two of them framed and proudly displayed: One in his office and another one at home. The rest are in a closet. Either way, the page has been turned. "I don't know that I could say he's 'OK' with the way it went down," Doug says. "The only way he'd be OK with it would be if he was playing right now." You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.
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