MANHATTAN — There were times when Collin Klein’s mother couldn’t help but worry, when she would watch her son take a snap from center, dodge a couple of defenders and then take off at a gallop.
The play would usually end up with Kansas State’s quarterback taking a big hit, the kind that caused Kelly Klein to gasp. The kid would invariably drag himself off the turf, blood usually seeping from his elbows. He would adjust his facemask, hike back his shoulder pads and trundle back to the huddle and do it all again.
“I get emotional because I do worry,” Kelly Klein admitted this week. “But he does what he loves to do, so you have to be grateful that he has the physical ability to do it.”
Klein’s prodigious physical ability, along with his even demeanor, unwavering faith and singular focus on getting better bit by bit all contributed to one of the finest careers in Kansas State history. On Wednesday, he was voted The AP Big 12 offensive player of the year.
“I’m just honored with this opportunity that the Lord has provided me here at K-State,” said Klein, who made the All-Big 12 first team as a quarterback and was honorable mention as an all-purpose player. “I’m just happy to represent Kansas State, our team and what we’ve been able to accomplish this season.”
The Heisman Trophy finalist set a slew of records while helping the seventh-ranked Wildcats to an 11-win season, the third conference title in school history and a berth opposite Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
Klein is the first player from Kansas State to be voted the Big 12’s top offensive player. He received 14 of the 18 votes from members of the media who regularly cover the Big 12, while West Virginia’s Tavon Austin got three votes and Terrance Williams of Baylor received the other one.
“It’s an amazing thing and it’s a huge honor, but the reward, you know, is just seeing him do his thing, and do what he loves to do,” said Klein’s father, Doug Klein. “Truly, whether it’s recognized or not, that’s the reward.”
Klein’s coach, Bill Snyder, was voted Big 12 coach of the year for the third time on Tuesday.
“He deserves all the compliments he can have,” Snyder said. “He’s awfully good at what he does, and he’s awfully good as a leader and he’s awfully good as a field manager, and he’s awfully good in all the physical aspects of the game — and he’s a tremendous person.”
Defensive end Devonte Fields of Big 12 newcomer TCU was voted AP’s defensive player of the year. He received seven votes to beat out Kansas State’s Arthur Brown (four), Horned Frogs teammate Jason Verrett (three), Iowa State’s A.J. Klein (two), and Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma (one each).
Fields was also the runaway winner of defensive newcomer of the year, while Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk was voted the conference’s top newcomer on offense.
Klein has already won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and is up for several other national awards this week. He’s one of three finalists for the Heisman, along with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, which will be handed out Saturday night in New York.
The senior from Loveland, Colo., was recruited to Kansas State under former coach Ron Prince, played for a while at wide receiver, and then transitioned back to quarterback. But he never approached the position in the way most do: He was just as comfortable bulldozing for yards as he was airing it out.
Klein threw for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns this season while running for 890 yards and 22 more touchdowns. He’s the first player in the BCS era to have consecutive seasons with at least 10 touchdown passes and 20 touchdown runs, and the other three to even accomplish the feat once all won the Heisman: Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010, Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007 and Eric Crouch of Nebraska in 2000.
“Some crazy things have happened to lead our team and myself to this point,” Klein said. “There are a lot of reasons for that. There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation that have been put in on so many people’s part, and so many people have invested in me when I was going through a hard time or struggling.”
Kansas State led the league with six first-team All-Big 12 selections: Klein, Brown, offensive lineman B.J. Finney, tight end Travis Tannahill, defensive lineman Meshak Williams and defensive back Ty Zimmerman. The Wildcats also had five second-team selections and eight honorable mentions.
Oklahoma State had the second-most first-team selections with five: running back Joseph Randle, wide receiver Josh Stewart, offensive lineman Lane Taylor and Quinn Sharp, who made it as both a punter and kicker.
Fields was joined on the first team by Verrett and TCU teammate Kenny Cain.
Oklahoma’s Jefferson and Colvin were joined by Gabe Ikard on the first team. Baylor’s Williams and Cyril Richardson, Texas Tech’s LaAdrian Waddle and Kerry Hyder, West Virginia’s Austin and Stedman Bailey, Iowa State linebackers Klein and Jake Knott and Texas’ Alex Okafor also made the first team.