KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here’s the thing that doesn’t make a shred of sense: Collin Klein is a smart guy. Surely, he’s watched enough of Tim Tebow to know that this is not the path that lands you at Candy Castle in the end.
Surely, he’s seen enough NFL games to know that quarterbacks who’ve been trained to run first, run second and throw third usually wind up getting their knees bent like a pipe cleaner by some crazed defensive end. Surely, he knows that the guys he used to be able to run over in college now are selling mutual funds.
In a few months, Klein could well be doing the same, if he keeps riding shotgun on this whole I’m-an-NFL-quarterback train.
Look, far be it from us to tell Klein, the former Kansas State signal-caller and Heisman Trophy finalist, not to chase his muse. Just about every muse Klein’s set his sights on he’s found a way to grab, whether it be through hard work, dedication, skill or plain guts.
The guy didn’t just roll out of bed every morning as a Big 12 champion quarterback. Klein put in the sweat, the film study, the hours and the dedication needed to transform himself into a one-man, 6-foot-5 wrecking crew. The Colorado native went out and made his dreams a reality, one first down at a time.
But the NFL doesn’t care about dreams.
The NFL laughs at dreams. The NFL is a cold, cruel, cynical place run by cold, cruel, cynical people.
To paraphrase Eric Winston, they really are our 21st-centry gladiators, trotted out every Sunday for the glory and spectacle of the Roman Empire. The old warriors are phased out, and the new warriors get cycled in. It’s the circle of NFL life.
The circle does not care, does not care how swell of a fella one may happen to be. Personal charm is about 37th on the list of desirable traits.
Klein has that charm. But he has other skills, too, ones much higher up on the desirability list: He’s huge (6-5, 226 pounds), runs awfully well for a big guy (4.72 in the 40-yard dash at the combine) and happens to be blessed with hops (31.5 inches on his vertical during K-State’s pro day in March).
Klein played receiver and special teams as an underclassman with the Wildcats before moving under center full time. His K-State teammates described him as one of the best basketball players on the football team, a dunking machine with soft hands.
Klein isn’t Sonny Jurgensen; he’s a preposterously gifted 23-year-old at the height of his prowess. He may be an unconventional passer with funky mechanics, but he has plenty more in the toolbox. If Klein wanted to, if he really put his mind to it, he could reinvent himself as a receiver or tight end, the way Matt Jones, another freakishly athletic signal-caller in college, did during his transition to the next level.
Only Klein doesn’t want to. He went undrafted last weekend, then signed with the Houston Texans, a team that already had four quarterbacks on its roster. After landing a spot with the Texans late Saturday, Klein reiterated the stance he’s had since late January: it’s quarterback or bust.
Which is funny, considering that on Monday, the player to whom Klein is most often compared, Tebow, was released by the New York Jets. The rest of the NFL had until late Tuesday afternoon to put in a claim on the ex-Florida star. None did.
As Klein starts to forge a pro path, Tebow, after three NFL seasons, finds himself standing at a crossroads.
For Klein, there’s still time, though, a chance to begin anew. If a position coach in Houston asks Klein if he’d like a few reps with the tight ends, he best pull out the charm card and kindly take the coach up on the offer. Wedge buster? Sign me up!
Klein’s NFL journey doesn’t have to start with his arm, but it could end there.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org