MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — So many of their mannerisms are the same. So is the attention to detail, the toughness — the grit that has come to not only define them but also their football program.
In fact, the only real difference between them may be their ages.
Bill Snyder turns 75 in October. Collin Klein turns 25 next month.
So it makes sense that when Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist for Kansas State just two years ago, gave up on his professional dreams and embarked on a career in coaching, he would return do it under the silver-haired sage who turned him into one of the best quarterbacks in school history.
“It’s an honor. I mean, I love this place,” Klein told The Associated Press recently, “and it really worked out, and I’m grateful coach gave me the opportunity. It’s the place I wanted to be.”
Snyder actually tried to talk Klein out of a career in coaching, wary of the toll it has taken on his own family. The long hours and immense pressure can be unbearable. But Snyder also remembers seeing something in Klein, back when he was leading the Wildcats to a No. 1 national ranking and a BCS bowl berth, which made him believe that one day he’d be back on the sidelines.
It may have been the way Klein pored over game film. Or the way he grasped Snyder’s complex offense. Or the way he could inspire his teammates when times got tough.
“It’s great to have him back. He knows the system like the back of his hand, and having him back will help us a lot,” said wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who once caught passes from Klein and is now picking his brain for tips and tricks as a star pupil.
“He’s been there,” Lockett said. “He knows what to expect.”
Ironically, Klein’s biggest anxiety these days is that he doesn’t know what to expect.
His official title is “quality control assistant,” but nobody can seem to give him a very good explanation of what that job entails. One day he may be breaking down game film, the next he may be doing a critique of the Wildcats’ offense. Heck, he might be the one fetching Snyder’s ever-present cup of coffee, and he insists that would be just fine with him.
“It’s very different, but very similar at the same time,” Klein explained. “As a quarterback and a player here, I had a decent feel for what went on behind the scenes, but I didn’t have any idea of how much work and all the details that needed to get done.”
Especially under Snyder, who is so fanatical when it comes to work that he once consulted with a hypnotist to learn whether it was possible to get by on less sleep.
No sense in wasting those eight — or seven or six, or five — hours every night.
“Collin’s done it. He’s been there. And he did it in a big way,” said Del Miller, the Wildcats’ longtime co-offensive coordinator. “It’s important for me to have him around the players.”
Klein is not unique in returning to Kansas State as a coach.
Co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, special teams coach Sean Snyder, wide receivers coach Andre Coleman, defensive line coach Mo Latimore and defensive ends coach Blake Seiler all played for the Wildcats, as did graduate assistant coach Zach Hanson.
“I read someplace that we have on our coaching staff more ex-players than anybody else in the country,” Snyder said. “I think that’s important because I know them. I know what kind of value system they have. And they know me. They know the program, and what the demands are, and they’ve experienced it. So for them to accept the opportunity to come back tells me they’re humble.”
Of course, the reason so many have come back is that they were also successful.
Klein threw for more than 2,600 yards as a senior, and his 4,724 yards passing ranks sixth on the school charts. He also broke records for career and single-season rushing touchdowns, and once ran for four touchdowns and threw for three more in a single game.
Little surprise he was a second-team All-American in 2012, winning the Johnny Unitas Award and making the finalist list for the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davy O’Brien awards.
“What a great resource,” said current Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters. “I’d be dumb not to annoy him, I guess. He’s been through everything we’re going through. He was such a great player