Q&A: Former K-State QB Collin Klein

The offseason-long battle to find Kansas State’s next starting quarterback ended Monday. Junior college transfer Jake Waters will get the start Saturday against North Dakota State.

Waters was the crown jewel of the Wildcats’ recruiting class, and his addition was so critical to the staff that Collin Klein even helped recruit him to Manhattan. That wasn’t the biggest reason why Waters ultimately chose KSU over Penn State, but it sure didn’t hurt to have Klein’s support.

He’s not quite the runner that Klein was as a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, but Waters is a proven passer. In his record-setting 2012 season at Iowa Western, Waters threw for 3,501 yards, 39 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Replacing Klein is no doubt a tall task. We caught up with Klein on Sunday for this story about the KSU quarterback race. He was adamant that no matter who won the job, leadership will be one of many important traits demanded of his successor.

“There’s a lot more than that, but that’s a big component,” Klein said. “Really, it’s the full package that’s important.”

Here’s more from our interview, including Klein’s thoughts on Waters and his own future:

What advice did you give Jake Waters when he arrived on campus?

CK: I just told him to work as hard as he possibly could, enjoy the experience and have fun. It’ll happen for you. I know they’re both working hard, trying to get themselves better, trying to get the team better. That’s the most important thing.

Waters came in this spring and had a lot of catching up to do. Is this offense pretty difficult to learn?

CK: Yeah, it really is. There’s a lot on the quarterback in terms of knowing what’s going on. But that’s part of the beauty of it, too.

Daniel Sams is known more for his rushing talents. From your experience, does K-State need a dual-threat guy running the offense?

CK: I think it can work no matter what, as long as the team comes together and they work together. That’s the most important thing. The coaches do such a good job of putting you in position to succeed. They’ll be just fine.

Do you think, with Waters and Sams, Kansas State can’t go wrong with either option?

CK: I mean, both bring very good things. I think they’ll both see the field at some point.

Think these guys will feel some pressure considering they’re following a Heisman finalist?

CK: I don’t think so. I think, again, they’re just focused on what they’re trying to do and the benefit of the team. You can’t go wrong with that.

You know the talent that Waters and Sams will be surrounded by. Are they set up well to succeed with who’s coming back on offense?

CK: They’ll be just fine. It’s going to depend on how they come together, how they play together and how tough they are as a group. All those things will really carry the day for them

What are you up to these days?

CK: I’m in Manhattan working out still. I’m just trying to get on a practice squad or something somewhere. We’ve been staying in touch with a couple of teams. We’ll see what happens.

While you’re still in town, are you spending much time around the program? Do you talk with those quarterbacks at all?

CK: Not too much. I’m around a little bit, but this is their time. Anything I can do to help support, I’ll be there.

You faced pressure during the draft process to try other positions. Were you glad the Texans let you try out as a QB?

CK: No question. It was very refreshing and I had nothing but positive feedback from them down there. I was very grateful they gave me the chance.

Where’s your confidence level right now about your chances of getting on an NFL roster in the near future?

CK: I think it’s pretty good. Again, this whole process is about learning as we go and taking it in stride. So we’ll see what happens.

Tell me about the Collin Klein Passing Academy you held this summer. How’d it go?

CK: It was amazing. We had seven different camps and almost had 1,000 kids. We were able to get in certain communities around the state of Kansas and work with kids on the field. I was so happy to get to work with the kids and share some character and leadership values that I’ve been very blessed to have role models share with me. To be able to share those things with them was really special.