1 A hailstorm in Colorado, summer 1993. A mother and her son were riding bicycles along the edge of Horseshoe Lake, in the town of Loveland. They were three miles from home, a mile above sea level, and the mother wished she had not led them so far. But they had only one choice. "Pedal through the pain," she told the boy. And he did. The path was rough, and the hail stung their faces, but three-year-old Collin Klein would not quit. The whole way home she heard him talking to himself. Pedal through the pain, he was saying. Pedal through the pain.
2 Other sayings attributed to Klein include "Gosh," "Golly," "Jeepers," "Oh, heck," and, at least once, when a high school basketball teammate complained about the required running in practice, "Don't get bees in your bonnet."
3 In September, for a segment on ESPN's College GameDay, Scott Van Pelt visited Klein on the Kansas State campus. Klein has scored more rushing touchdowns (46) in the past two seasons than any other quarterback in any two seasons in Football Bowl Subdivision history, and he has done so on an astounding 471 carries, which means he has taken a pounding that is extraordinary for a quarterback. So Van Pelt asked Klein about his toughness, and Klein dodged the question, talking instead about how tough his teammates were. Van Pelt relayed an encouraging text message from Tim Tebow, to whom Klein has been favorably compared, and Klein said, "I respect the heck out of him." As they walked off the field together, Van Pelt said, "For a tough guy, Collin, you have an artistic side, too. If only we could find a stage with a giant piano." So they found one, and Klein played a fine rendition of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" as Van Pelt danced a little jig.
That's what you saw on television. The rest of the story is this. Bill Snyder, the Wildcats' ancient and venerated coach, releases as little information as possible on the injuries of his players. He has his reasons. For one, dark and terrible things happen in the pile on the field, and if the other guys know you're hurting in a particular place, they just might grab you there and make it even worse. Well, Klein had, in fact, been hurt in Kansas State's 52--13 win over Miami on Sept. 8. But he couldn't tell Van Pelt. Sure, he could have responded to the piano request with "No, thanks" or "I don't feel like it." But Collin Klein has always quietly done what was asked of him. And so he banged out the "Maple Leaf Rag" without complaint while his right hand throbbed with the pain of a broken finger.
4 Violin, mandolin. He plays those too.
5 Three days later Klein led the Wildcats, then ranked No. 15, into Norman, Okla., where he ran for the go-ahead touchdown in a 24--19 win over the sixth-ranked Sooners. By Nov. 3 the Wildcats were 8--0, ranked second in the BCS standings, and Klein was second in the nation in passing efficiency. That night Kansas State hosted Oklahoma State, a fierce Big 12 rival whose defenders grabbed Klein's face mask and twisted his head and bent his wrist backward to an unnatural angle and finally knocked him out of the game in the third quarter. By then he had racked up 309 yards by air and by ground, and K-State led 38--17, but Bill Snyder Family Stadium went nearly silent when backup quarterback Daniel Sams took over. It was all very mysterious. The TV announcers couldn't make head or tail of it. Because the last time Klein was seen in the game that night, he was not getting sandwiched or blindsided or crushed under a pile or anything like that. On his last play against Oklahoma State, Collin Klein ran for a touchdown.
6 Steak, medium rare; baked potato; Caesar salad. He likes that.
7 When Klein was a boy, his mother and father expected him to shovel the driveway on mornings after it snowed. So he did. Neighbor's driveway, too. Many years later, when he was a junior at K-State, he shared an off-campus house with four other students. In the midst of an excruciating 317-carry season, his faithful center, B.J. Finney, once had to carry him down to his bedroom in the basement after an especially violent game. But none of that had a thing to do with the falling snow. Klein didn't talk about it much, didn't try to gain credit or leverage or anything. He just got up first and started shoveling.
8 Klein's younger brother and teammate, Kyle, a redshirt freshman receiver for the Wildcats, plays at least two instruments himself and is better than Collin on the piano. When they were housemates last year, they started a regular Sunday-night jam session with some other musical friends. More people arrived each week to listen and sing along. What did they sing? "Amazing Grace," and "It Is Well with My Soul," and "Shine, Jesus, Shine." They were having church.
9 He is said to give excellent hugs, like a 6'5", 226-pound, very friendly bear.