Klein’s ability to handle his responsibilities first and still make significant plays is what separates him

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A.J. Klein is in pretty select company.

His 87-yard interception return for a touchdown against Texas Tech was the fourth “pick six” of his career. Only two other linebackers in college football history have recorded as many interceptions returned for TD as Klein.

Virginia’s Randy Veal (1991-94) and Miami of Ohio’s Dustin Cohen (1996-99) each registered four interceptions returns for TD as collegians.

Cohen was MAC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and that league honor links him to Klein, who won the same honor in the Big 12 as a junior.

Klein makes these significant plays because he gets himself in the right spot while not cheating on his responsibilities.

“He’s a heady player and has a knack for (getting) the ball after doing his job,” Coach Rhoads said.

Rhoads then compared Klein to former All-Big 12 linebacker Jesse Smith, who likewise made a number of big plays on defense for the Cyclones. But there is a difference between Smith and Klein.

“Jesse went to the quarterback’s eyes all of the time and left players open (sometimes),” Rhoads explained. “A.J. covers his receivers first and then plays football from there. That’s what elevates him to being one of the best linebackers in the country.”

Klein still has a number of games to get another “pick six” and have the NCAA record all by himself. That would be a resume builder for Klein, but it won’t come at the expense of handling his assignments first.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/SteveMalchow

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