NEW YORK — Collin Klein had a speech prepared when he walked through the doors of the Best Buy Theater on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
He expected to win.
Even though the Kansas State senior quarterback was going up against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, the two players who were favored to take home the most prestigious individual honor in college football, he embraced the same underdog mentality he used to guide the Wildcats to a Big 12 championship.
Aside from wearing a grey suit and a purple tie instead of a uniform, he treated the spectacle just like his coach, Bill Snyder, has taught him to treat games. So there was naturally disappointment when Manziel won the award in front of a packed audience of former Heisman winners and a national TV audience watching from home.
“You don’t come to these things not expecting to win,” Klein said. “That’s not the K-State way.”
Finishing a distant third with 894 total points and 60 first-place votes was also a bit surprising. Despite Manziel producing more yardage and scoring more touchdowns, and Te’o leading Notre Dame to an undefeated season some thought the final results would have been closer than the were.
Te’o took second with 1,706 total points and 321 first-place votes while Manziel, the first freshman to win the award, dominated both categories with 2,029 points and 474 first-place votes.
Klein was considered the frontrunner to win the award for several weeks during the regular season, but a subpar showing against TCU combined with an ugly loss to Baylor, in which he threw three interceptions, knocked him out of the race.
That defeat still hurts, but not because of anything that happened on Saturday.
“I was more frustrated that we lost from a team perspective,” Klein said. “My thing is that I just know that I did everything I possibly could, played as hard as I possibly could against every opponent.… We played and prepared exactly the same way. I don’t have any regrets.”
Klein finished third in all six regions, with the bulk of his support coming from his home states and in the Southwest.
Klein might have been hurt by some voters not waiting until the season was over to cast their ballots. Only 77 percent of voters voted after Klein led K-State to a season-ending victory over Texas that clinched a conference championship for the Wildcats. Klein played well that night, and ESPN analyst Lee Corso called it one of the greatest victories in K-State history during the Heisman presentation.
That could have annoyed some candidates. Not Klein. No matter what happened during the award ceremony, it was a special week for him.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Klein said. “I was just honored to be here and represent K-State.”
It was a busy award week for Klein. He attended three awards presentations in three days. He visited Orlando, Baltimore and New York and even won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award. He got to represent K-State on a national stage and rub shoulders with college football’s elite.
There was a moment on Friday, while eating dinner in Baltimore, that he could hardly believe what was happening to him. The one-time lightly recruited quarterback was a long way from his home in Loveland, Colo.
“I was like, ‘Wait a second, I’m in Maryland eating crab cakes. What is going on here?’” Klein said. “I guess it’s the little things in life. This is just a blessing.”
A blessing he wanted to share. His teammates have been texting him all week, sending him words of encouragement and congratulating him for his success. Klein appreciated that, but said he wished he could have brought his entire team with him to New York.
“I’m not here without them and the sacrifices that every single one of my players and teammates have made,” Klein said.
Others helped him along the way, too.
His parents, his brother, his wife, his former coaches and his current coaches.
“I could continue to name names,” Klein said. “My music teacher, my piano teacher … They are all people who invested in me at a very young age. It’s very special.”
Had he won the award, he said he wanted those seeing him for the first time to know he was a person who truly cares about his team and always tries to put others’ interests over his own. He would have thanked them all.
He didn’t get the chance, but he brought increased attention to K-State and felt like a celebrity for a few days.
“This whole thing has been really surreal,” Klein said. “It’s an honor to be here and represent all my teammates at K-state and most important my Lord and my family.”