Klieman: Seven national title rings ‘would be a little heavy’ to wear

ARLINGTON, Texas — Former North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman flashed some of his wit Tuesday during Big 12 Conference football media days at AT&T Stadium.

Klieman was taking part in the annual event, readying for his first season as head coach at Kansas State.

Last January, Klieman led the Bison to a seventh NCAA Division I FCS national championship in eight seasons. He was the head coach for four of those titles and an assistant coach during the other three.

Klieman was asked why he didn’t wear his FCS title rings to Big 12 media days. Monday, Kansas head coach Les Miles wore the national title ring he won at Louisiana State.

“I’d have seven of them on and I thought that would be a little bit heavy to have seven of them on,” Klieman joked to a group of reporters. “But they’re displayed in the office, you can come by and see them.”

Kansas State hired Klieman last December to take over for Wildcats head coaching legend Bill Snyder. Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor, a former NDSU athletic director, made the hire. Taylor also hired Klieman as Bison head coach.

“I wouldn’t be here without our athletic director, Gene Taylor, who gave me the opportunity at North Dakota State five years ago to be the head coach there,” Klieman said Tuesday. “After five great years, he gave me an opportunity to come to Kansas State and be the head football coach here.”

Klieman was allowed to complete last season with the Bison, even though the hire was announced before the FCS semifinals. He posted a 69-6 record in five seasons as NDSU’s head coach. Klieman was part of the Bison program the previous eight seasons, and the team posted a 112-8 record in that span.

Kansas State was recently picked to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 preseason media poll. The Wildcats finished 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the Big 12 last season under Snyder.

“I don’t take a lot of account into preseason polls, I never have, even at a previous school where we were ranked typically first,” Klieman said. “I still think it’s about attacking on a daily basis. … I know our guys are hungry.”

Klieman was asked what the program can do to attract big-time talent to Kansas State. In his response, Klieman referenced two former NDSU quarterbacks who were in the program while he coached there. Both players became NFL Draft picks.

“If you’re a quarterback and you look at Carson Wentz or Easton Stick, two drafted guys, why wouldn’t you want to come and play in this system?” Klieman said. “So I’m excited about the direction we’re going recruiting.”

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Wentz at No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, while the Los Angeles Chargers selected Stick in the fifth round (No. 166 overall) of the most recent NFL Draft.

Sklyar Thompson is projected to be the starting quarterback for Kansas State next season. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound junior made 10 starts for the Wildcats last season. He completed 122 of 208 passes for 1,391 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions.

Thompson said the team didn’t know much about Klieman, at first, when he was hired last December. He said the new coach won over the players after the first team meeting.

“We knew he won a bunch of national championships, but nobody really knew anything about him,” Thompson told FOX Sports during a television interview Tuesday when he was asked about that first team meeting. “You could just sense that everybody was on board.”

Thompson added that Klieman’s championship vision for the program has credibility.

“When a guy is saying that and he has seven national championships, you’re going to listen to him,” Thompson said. “I don’t care what level of football you’re coaching. Coach Klieman is a special dude and everybody on our team in that first meeting, you could sense that.”

Klieman added he’s taking over for a special head coach in Snyder, who was the leader of the Wildcats for 27 years. Snyder is the winningest coach in Kansas State history with a 215-117-1 record. He led the Wildcats to 19 of the program’s 21 all-time bowl game appearances.

Snyder guided Kansas State to two conference championships.

“It’s one of the most synonymous names in college football history, not just at Kansas State,” Klieman said of Snyder. “What coach did at Kansas State was nothing short of remarkable and I’m going to feed off that. … I’m just trying to continue in his legacy, but doing it our own way.”