MANHATTAN — The first day of college footballs award season couldnt have gone much better for Collin Klein.
The Kansas State senior quarterback was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy along with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo, and he won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, another prestigious national award.
Klein will have to wait until 7 p.m. Saturday to see if he won the Heisman, which will be presented during a nationally televised ceremony on ESPN from New York.
Im so proud to represent K-State in this because I feel like my road is very synonymous and in line with the K-State way, Klein said in a statement released by K-State. It has been a process, it has been a journey. There have been a lot of ups and downs, as well as a lot of hard times and growing pains through it. Im just very proud to represent the K-State family and our heart and spirit in this environment.
Klein is the first Wildcat player to be a Heisman finalist since Michael Bishop was the runnerup in 1998. Darren Sproles also challenged for the award in 2003, finishing fifth, but was not a finalist.
No K-State player has won the award. Klein could be the first after leading the Wildcats to 11 wins and a Big 12 championship in the regular season by throwing for 2,490 yards, rushing for 890 yards and accounting for 37 total touchdowns. He guided K-State to a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, where it will play Oregon on Jan. 3.
He will face stiff competition before then in Manziel and Teo.
Manziel put up huge stats 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns passing and 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing while guiding Texas A&M to 10 wins and an upset victory at Alabama as a freshman. No freshman has ever won the Heisman, but most national experts consider him the favorite.
Teo, a senior linebacker, was the leader of Notre Dames defense and helped the Fighting Irish go undefeated while making 101 tackles and seven interceptions. No defensive player has won the award since 1997.
Klein likely trailed both in voting going into K-States final game against Texas. But he might have earned some votes by amassing nearly 300 yards of offense and scoring three touchdowns while leading the Wildcats to an important victory.
No matter what happens in New York, he will bring home a trophy on Friday when he receives the Unitas Award in Baltimore. The award is presented annually to a quarterback who combines on-field success and academic achievement. To be eligible for the award, players must be nearing completion of their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with his recruiting class.
Collin is not just a tremendous athlete and leader on the field, but an MVP off the field as well, who repeatedly has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the community and to the spirit of sportsmanship, said John Unitas Jr., president of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.
Added Klein: Its a tremendous honor. Anyone that is familiar with the game of football recognizes that name. Im just happy to represent Kansas State, our team and what weve been able to accomplish this season.
Klein was one of 29 candidates for the Unitas Award when the season began, and one of five finalists. The other four were USCs Matt Barkley, Florida States EJ Manuel, Alabamas AJ McCarron and West Virginias Geno Smith.
Past winners include six quarterbacks who went on to claim the Heisman Trophy, as well as current NFL players Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Brady Quinn, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck.
Klein, along with K-State coach Bill Snyder and his family, will be in Baltimore on Friday and New York on Saturday to attend the ceremonies.