SE: Diary of Coach Klieman’s First Big 12 Media Day

By Corbin McGuire
 
 
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — K-State football head coach Chris Klieman is accustomed to traveling to the Dallas area on an annual basis, just a different part of it.
 
As North Dakota State’s head coach (2014-18) and as a Bison assistant (2011-13), Klieman made the trip to Frisco, Texas seven times for the FCS National Championship game. His teams won every time they traveled south.
 
On Tuesday, about six months after his Frisco finale, Klieman and six Wildcats made the trip to AT&T Stadium, billion-dollar home of the Dallas Cowboys and the Big 12 Championship in December, for Big 12 Media Days.
 
As one of four new coaches in the conference this season, Klieman was in for a lot of questions. But, as he responded to questions about his team, he was “excited for the challenge.” Here’s a look at how his day went.

 
9:19 a.m. — Klieman arrives to AT&T Stadium wearing a dark grey suit and a purple tie over a white shirt. Alongside the program’s new leader were K-State’s five Big 12 media representatives — Skylar Thompson, Dalton Schoen, Reggie Walker, Trey Dishon and Wyatt Hubert — and Big 12 Champion for Life selection, Denzel Goolsby. All six wore different suits.
 
“We’ll be the best dressed,” Klieman says.
 
9:33 — “Kenny, you know where you’re going and everything,” Klieman tells K-State Executive Associate AD for Communications/Public Relations Kenny Lannou, attending his 15th Big 12 media day and leading Klieman to his first of many interviews.
 
This one is with Dusty Dvoracek, who played at Oklahoma and is now an analyst for ESPN and sports-talk radio host in Oklahoma. The interview outlines many themes for the day, of taking on a new level of football in the Big 12, of taking over for a legend in Bill Snyder, of his adoration for the K-State fanbase, of his confidence in Skylar Thompson.
 
“We’ve given him the keys right away,” Klieman says of his redshirt junior quarterback. “Kids gravitate to him. That’s a sign of a great leader.”
 
9:44 — Klieman makes his way to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) table for a podcast interview meant for coaches of all levels. As someone who’s risen up from Division III to Power Five, Klieman offers his peers two key pieces of advice.
 
1: “Football’s football.” (Klieman said this more than a few times during the day.)
2: “Be where your feet are.” (This, Klieman said, has been a crucial mindset in his career and for his best teams.)
 
9:53 — “It’s a good first day,” Klieman says.
 
He’s in a radio interview on 580 WIBW, home to K-State football broadcasts in Topeka. In it, Klieman details his players’ coach approach to leading a program. He shares how he wants input from his team on just about everything, how he wants his players to be able to trust him and challenge him, because he will do the same for them.
 
“If the kid doesn’t like it, how’s it going to be successful?” Klieman said. “This is their program.”
 
Asked of commonalities between the seven national championship teams he was part of at NDSU, Klieman talked about one area: Unselfishness.
 
“Play for the guy next to you. Play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back,” he said. “And hold each other accountable.”

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10:06 — Another radio interview, Klieman sits down with 107.7 The Franchise out of Oklahoma City.
 
Like he will at a few other stops, K-State’s head coach speaks on the challenge of following in a legend’s footsteps. Klieman references his college playing days at Northern Iowa, where he had three different head coaches.
 
“Embrace the change,” he said of his message to K-State’s players, which, he adds, was well received from the start.
 
Off topic, he’s asked how he and his family’s adjusting to life in Manhattan. Klieman responds by telling the host his youngest son, Colby, enjoyed Kansas’ version of winter. How so? He wore shorts to school every day, his dad says, with a laugh.
 
10:16 — Klieman runs into an old friend, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
 
Both Waterloo, Iowa natives, their mothers are great friends. Bowlsby, 16 years older, even signed Klieman’s National Letter of Intent when he was the athletics director at Northern Iowa. The two talk about golf — Klieman recently played with his former UNI coach, Terry Allen, in Topeka — and how their summers have been.  
 
Eventually, football returns to the forefront.
 
“The next month will be huge for us to see what they did this summer,” Klieman tells the conference commissioner.
 
10:20 — “What do they seat in here? 100,000?”
 
Klieman, making his way off the field, says this while peering up at the stadium’s gargantuan videoboard. (Capacity is listed at 100,000 for its bigger events).
 
10:25 — Klieman walks into a room set up for the Big 12 Champions for Life campaign video shoot, expecting to do an interview about Goolsby. What Klieman does not expect is that Goolsby is sitting in the interview chair behind the camera, ready to ask the questions.
 
“Awesome,” Klieman loudly responds, “I will hammer him.”
 
The setting quickly becomes more intimate.
 
Klieman talks about his senior safety, who he’s known for barely six months, like he recruited him. He gives detailed answers of his first impressions about Goolsby when they met after his first introductory press, of his “infectious smile.” Klieman shares how well Goolsby handles his platform as a student-athlete and why he represents what the Big 12’s Champion for Life series is all about.
 
It’s one of Klieman’s longest interviews of the day.
 
10:42 — Klieman is getting powder make-up applied to his face for a FOX video promotional shoot.
 
Walker, his Preseason All-Big 12 defensive end, is sitting nearby. Klieman makes sure to ask: “Reggie, did you get any make up put on?” Reggie, and the rest of the room, laughs.
 
About 12 minutes later, after repeating a series of promotional reads, Klieman walks out and crosses paths with Thompson, his quarterback.
 
“You got the easy work,” Klieman says to Thompson, who was finishing up a shoot that included yelling in a nearby room.

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10:59 — On his way back to radio row, Klieman runs into another Big 12 official whom served as the moderator for the 2019 FCS National Championship game. Before long, K-State’s season opener against Nicholls, a solid FCS program, on August 31 is brought up.
 
Klieman leaves him with one comment:
 
“One thing I know is our team won’t take an FCS opponent for granted.”
 
11:00 — A few feet away, Klieman starts up a conversation with Bruce Feldman, a prominent national college football reporter. The two speak on wrestling, Northern Iowa, recruiting and, more specifically, graduate transfers.
 
James Gilbert, a graduate transfer running back from Ball State, comes up.
 
“He’s a really good player,” Klieman said of the Maxwell Award Watch List nominee.
 
11:07 — “Thanks for all the work you guys do,” Klieman leaves his interview with KMAN’s John Kurtz and Mason Voth with this. He ends many of his interviews with local media like this.
 
11:15 — Klieman comes upon Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, at his fourth Big 12 Media Day. The Cyclone coach asks Klieman how he’s handling the car wash of interviews.
 
“I’m surviving,” Klieman smiles.
 
11:18 — Klieman sits down with Sirius XM radio. The hosts probe his familiarity with the area, citing his trips to Frisco, for any possible Dallas Cowboys stories.
 
Klieman counters with a story of one of his sons, during a trip to Frisco. He says his son was standing in an elevator with former NDSU quarterback Easton Stick, a fifth round NFL Draft pick this April who recently visited Manhattan. Also in the elevator? The Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot.
 
But.
 
“One of the North Dakota State fans leans over to my son and says, ‘You know that’s Easton Stick?'” Klieman says, laughing. Again, he goes on to compare the NDSU and K-State fanbases.  

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11:34 — Klieman takes a selfie with and at the request of the hosts of AM 1300 The Zone out of Austin, Texas. Then, another interview.
 
The topic of player development comes up.
 
“That’s how Kansas State’s had success before,” Klieman chimes in.
 
It’s also how he’s had success.  
 
Klieman shares an anecdote about when he knew Carson Wentz was special. As he tells it, Klieman says he was asked a question about who his best player was on the 2011 NDSU National Championship team. He said it was Wentz, a redshirt at the time who torched the Bison’s stifling defense on scout team. Wentz, as most are familiar, became a first-round draft pick and a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles.
 
This leads to a question about Thompson.
 
“I wanted him to have ownership,” Klieman says of his initial impressions of the Wildcat signal caller.
 
11:43 — Lannou, who Klieman praised earlier, has bad news for his coach now. There’s not time for a bathroom break. Klieman’s due up for a live interview on FS2 in two minutes.
 
“You’re killing me,” Klieman tells Lannou.

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11:45 — Klieman goes on stage for his live interview. The first “Win the Dang Day” question is asked. His past success is also brought up. Klieman talks again about giving his players ownership of the program.
 
“The more ownership they have, the more invested they are,” he says.
 
“It’s their football team,” he adds. “It’s not my team.”

 
11:53 — Bathroom break.
 
11:57 — Klieman begins his 20-minute press conference. He answers seven questions, the last one being about three of the players he brought with him being on the defensive line. 
 
“All three of those guys have played an awful lot of football at Kansas State,” he says, “and I think their best football is still in front of them.”

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12:28 p.m. — Baylor head coach Matt Rhule stops Klieman in passing. An avid social media user, Rhule praises how Klieman’s program is promoting its summer activities, like the team’s summer cookoff, paintball and laser tag competitions, among other events.
 
“I love what you guys are doing,” Rhule says.   
 
12:35 — Lunch. Mexican food. For Klieman, iced tea to drink.
 
12:56 — “Here we go again,” Klieman states to his players as the next round of interviews await. Then, a What-A-Burger debate begins. Most of K-State’s players vote it third on their list of favorite fast food chains.
 
1:05 — The Big 12’s Aaron Pryor sits down with Klieman. He ends the 11-minute interview by asking Klieman how he defines success.
 
“Stacking good days on top of good days,” he replies.

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1:31 — Longhorn Network tapes a short interview (four minutes) with Klieman, starting with his general philosophy. It sounds familiar.
 
“Good days on top of good days.”
 
1:39 — CBS, where Klieman is due next, is not ready for him. He takes the extra time and does two more radio interviews. K-State’s increased recruiting presence is brought up in the first.
 
“The social media and things we’re putting out there has been dynamite,” he says.
 
2:05 — CBS is now ready. Klieman answers some different types of questions, about transfer and overtime rules, golf (he’s an 11 handicap) and his favorite candy (Snickers).
 
2:20 — The group caves and gets a golf cart to drive to the next spot, an interview with FOX on the other side of the stadium. Lannou is put in charge of driving.
 
“Don’t hit that,” Athletics Director Gene Taylor, sitting behind Klieman, says as the six-passenger cart backs up.
 
Lannou gets the group there on time and in one piece.

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2:25 — Klieman answers another set of unique questions. Among them, his love of traveling the United States. He later talks about how, every once in a while, he walks onto the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and thinks about that August 31 game.
 
“Boy, this is going to be pretty cool to see a packed house and watch our players come out of the tunnel,” Klieman says of his thoughts in those moments.
 
2:30 — The last stop, before breakout interviews, is behind. Klieman sits on the golf cart as he waits. Golf, ironically, becomes a conversation piece, with The Open starting on Thursday.

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2:41 — ESPN’s College Gameday crew is ready. Klieman is the last interview here. He’s asked about his most memorable locker room speeches and college football games, and the worst weather game he’s been in. For the last one, he goes back years ago to a game against Illinois State, which he says started with two inches of rain and turned into ice and snow.
 
2:52 — K-State arrives for breakout interviews. The homestretch.
 
3:41: Klieman continues to answer many of the same questions, with a few new ones sprinkled in.
 
Denzel Goolsby even drops in to ask his coach some questions again. This time, he asks who Klieman’s favorite player is (“Denzel Goolsby, of course,” Klieman laughed); Goolsby’s birthday (“A little too intimate” of knowledge, Klieman said, with 100-plus players and staff members, to rattle off); and Klieman’s wedding anniversary (“July 5,” he says without hesitation).
 
Klieman is asked about being picked ninth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, which came up sporadically throughout the day. But, instead of it being motivation-based, this question centered about if he would take extra pride in proving those people wrong. He gives an emphatic no.
 
“Stay humble and stay hungry,” he says. “What you did yesterday pales in comparison to what you can do today.”  
 
3:53 — Media members dwindle to none around K-State’s section of the field. The Wildcats get a picture together. All the players hold their name plates in front of them. Klieman holds his behind his back. K-State football creative specialist Emily Starkey asks him to show it. He politely declines.
 
“It’s their program” at work.
 
A few minutes later, the Wildcats got in a shuttle to the airport to fly back to Manhattan, where they got back to work. 

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Source: Kansas State Sports