MANHATTAN, KAN. (AP) - Every week, the pressure on Collin Klein becomes a little more oppressive.
The senior quarterback has No. 2 Kansas State atop the BCS standings with two games standing in the way of likely playing for a national title. Klein’s the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, the poster boy for the program and this week the cover boy for Sports Illustrated.
It’s enough to make even the most ardent Bill Snyder disciple lose focus.
Whenever that focus starts to wane or the spotlight shines so brightly that Klein can hardly see, the star player turns to his closest confidant for a sympathetic ear.
It happens to be his younger brother, Kyle.
And he happens to be his teammate.
“I mean, no doubt about it, other than my wife, he’s my best friend,” Klein said during an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s obviously a businesslike mentality for both of us when we’re on the field, but it’s still totally a brotherly connection as well.”
The truth is that they are rarely on the field together.
The elder Klein has become one of the biggest names in college football, his face popping up everywhere. His younger brother is a backup wide receiver who redshirted last season, and who has yet to catch a pass during his freshman year with the Wildcats.
But the bond that holds them together extends far enough beyond the field. Kyle is one of the first people Collin seeks when he needs a sounding board. Their relationship takes the notion of a brotherhood in the locker room to a literal level, one that is rare in the high-stakes world of college football, where scholarships aren’t handed out to the undeserving.
“It’s truly been a blessing when it worked out that he was able to come and play here,” Collin Klein said. “The times we’ve been able to share growing up in high school, and to be able to extend that into both our college careers, has been invaluable.”
In a coincidence bordering on absurd, the Kleins are just one of four sets of brothers on the roster for the Wildcats (10-0, 7-0 Big 12), who play at Baylor on Saturday.
Senior Anthony Cantele, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, has been passing along his knowledge to Jack Cantele, a redshirt freshman kicker. Wide receiver Curry Sexton, a key contributor on the Wildcats’ prolific offense, is the brother of Collin Sexton, a redshirt freshman. Senior linebacker Jared Loomis’ brother, Evan Loomis, is also a wide receiver.
Snyder, the Wildcats’ longtime coach, said there isn’t necessarily rhyme or reason to the recruitment of brothers. It’s one of those quirks that just tend to happen. But he also realizes the undeniable benefits to having siblings on the roster.
“Maybe there could be cantankerous relationships or close relationships, or the combination of both,” he said, “but regardless of how you grow up, there’s a family affection that exists, where you truly care about each other. It’s a joy for them to have the opportunity to be together.”
That’s certainly true in the case of the Klein brothers from Loveland, Colo.
They were both home schooled, and that meant endless hours spent together. They have a lot of the same interests, a similar work ethic, hopes and desires. Kyle Klein admitted to being the more impulsive of the two, but there are far more similarities than differences.
They squabble, of course.
“But I honestly can’t remember the last time,” said Kyle Klein, who even looks like his big brother. “We had a lot of playful fights, wrestling in the backyard, but in terms of swinging at each other, I don’t remember. It’s been a long time.”
It’s more likely that they’ll come out swinging in each other’s defense.
After Collin Klein sustained a mild concussion a couple weeks ago against Oklahoma State, knocking him out of the game, it was his brother who quickly approached the star quarterback on the sideline to make sure that everything was going to be OK.
“I was somewhat worried about him, obviously, whenever someone gets dinged up,” Kyle Klein said. “You have your concern for them. But when I realized what was going on, I wasn’t worried. I was just hoping he would be alright, which he was. It was just a matter of time.”
The elder Klein was back under center last week, leading Kansas State to a workmanlike 23-10 win over TCU that kept their perfect season intact. And when top-ranked Alabama fell to Texas A&M, one of the biggest obstacles on the road to the BCS championship game was eliminated.
So the pressure will only continue to mount on the Wildcats. The scrutiny is growing with each day that passes, one slip-up along the way potentially ruining a lifetime worth of work.
It’s enough to make the hardiest of players sweat.
Good thing Collin Klein has one of his closest confidants close at hand.
“He’s always right there,” Klein said of his young brother. “He’s one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet.”
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