So how's married life after five months? "It's been amazing," said Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who took the hand of Shalin Spani in marriage on July 21 this past summer. "It's been awesome walking through this season together. There were definitely things that have gone as I expected, and some I didn't expect. You never really know until you are there."
Quizzed on what surprised him, he said, "I knew it would be fun, but it's been an absolute blast. To do everything with your best friend all the time … it's just been a blast. I knew we were going to have fun, but it's been an absolute blast every day."
So, is Shalin a good cook?
"She is," said Klein. "She's kept me eating healthy."
And of any other outstanding quality, Collin said, "She's funny. We laugh so much about everything."
For sure, being the daughter of former Kansas State All-American and Kansas City Chief linebacker Gary Spani, Shalin knew football before she said ‘I do' to Klein. But being No. 7's best friend … the quarterback of the Wildcats … she's learned even more about the offensive side of the ball.
"She goes with me to Vanier to watch film from time to time, or we'll just be at home and she'll say, ‘Do you want to watch film?'," said Klein, who was accompanied by his wife on the awards circuit to Orlando, Baltimore and New York City earlier this month. "The first few times I thought, ‘This is crazy,' but we have a great time with it and she has a pretty good grasp of what's going on."
That comes from the Spani background that Klein has come to love.
"The whole family is just amazing," said Klein. "Getting to know them has been a blessing. We talk some football, but it's more about life on life, and family on family. Football's not the most important thing. It's been a lot of fun, but I know it's going to be a lot more fun in the future with or without football."
This type of fun has, at least in part, made up for some lost time with his brother Kyle, a reserve wide receiver on the K-State team. "It's been different and I haven't had as much time with him, but we still make it a point to go out to dinner at least once a week," said
Kyle of losing his older brother to marriage. Laughing, he added of Shalin, "I don't want to call her one of the guys, but she fits right in with the rest of us."
While his brother has been Heisman-like on the football field, Kyle says, "He's an even better person. Nothing impresses me more about him than his faith. That's what I try to immolate. His belief is the most important thing in his life. I want to be like that."
Pausing, Kyle added, "Collin has always been my best friend. Sure, we had our brother backyard tussles, but we were always best friends. We shared a room together the whole time we lived at home."
With a pair of degrees earned in the area of finance, Klein says he's ready to move on to the next chapter in his life.
He admits to thinking about the NFL "some, but not much," and adds, "I know God has given me this ability and desire for the game for a reason. I want to maximize that gift for as long as I am supposed to, and then when that door closes, I'll move on to something else, and that will be fine."
Wherever Klein's future takes him, he'll be a K-Stater for life.
"I had a foundation in place when I arrived through my parents and my faith," Klein said. "But to be coached by coach Snyder the last few years, and to see how he uses the "16 Goals For Success" in his daily life, and our daily lives as a team, has allowed me to grow tremendously."
As a retired coach, Snyder said of his first-ever meeting the Klein, "I noticed he was a humble young guy, who was very friendly. We engaged in a dialogue in a lot of different things."
As to when Klein met Snyder for the first time ... "From the exchange of a few words, I remember how sincere he was. He asked how I was doing, and I knew he really meant it. He was not just saying it."
Later when Snyder returned as the coach of the Wildcats, Klein said, "I remember the first team meeting and we had those "16 Goals For Success" in front of us. The message of that meeting was, ‘All I ask is to be better today than we were yesterday. If we do that, we'll be ok.' "
Then as a returning coach of the Wildcats, Snyder said of Klein's leadership qualities compared to Michael Bishop's of 1998: "People responded to Michael because of the plays he made. He made a lot of mistakes, but he was extremely athletic and his end result motivated a lot of young players.
"With Collin, players respond not only because of what he does, but what he is in other areas than football," said Snyder. "With Michael, it was just on the football field. The leadership Collin has earned encompasses more than the football field."
When Klein looks back on this 2012 Big 12 championship season, and the senior class of 2012, he'll sum up the experience with the word "perseverance."
"A lot of us were here when we weren't able to get as many wins," said Klein. "We continued to push through when things were not going so well, and we never gave up on each other. There was a purpose to why we were all here together. Things haven't always been easy, and haven't always been perfect, but in a single word, I would say we persevered."