Patience and Hard Work Finally Paying Off for Klein
By Tony Gerdeman
Photo by Jim Davidson
When he committed to Ohio State back in October of 2007—nearly 16 months before he could even sign a Letter of Intent—Storm Klein knew that it was rare for freshman linebackers to just show up and immediately move to the front of the line.
Playing high school football less than an hour from Ohio Stadium, he was aware of the impact made by Andy Katzenmoyer as a Buckeye freshman back in 1996, but he was also aware that that wasn't an every day occurrence.
Part of the allure of coming to Ohio State as a linebacker is to be a part of the legacy set forth by others, but for a kid who just wants to see the field, choosing Ohio State can also become too much to handle. Playing time is like a closely-guarded secret—it doesn't find its way to just anybody.
A school with a great linebacker legacy like Ohio State builds on that legacy by adding top notch prospects every year. There will always be somebody in a freshman's way, and usually a sophomore's as well..
Patience is a key, but channeling that desire to play in the proper way is even more important. Everybody wants to contribute from day one. Storm Klein was no different, but he took the opportunities he was given and tried to make the most of them.
“Obviously you want to come in and contribute any way you can, and that's what I did on special teams,” he said. “That's a good way to get out there and get your name out there.”
“It's tough. The playbook is the biggest thing. Everybody has the physical ability to be here, but the biggest thing that separates the young guys is the playbook. If they can get in there and listen to what the older guys are saying, the faster they'll pick it up.”
But while a young player is bouncing questions off of a veteran, he's also playing behind him and getting limited reps. When Klein was a freshman in 2009 he ended up being one of Brian Rolle's backups, which meant that he would likely be his backup again in 2010, and he was.
For some players, sitting behind a player for two seasons is too much to ask, but for Klein, it wasn't unexpected. Rolle, his predecessor in the middle, had done the exact same thing while James Laurinaitis started for his final three seasons.
“It's tough sometimes no matter who you are when there are people in front of you and you don’t have a lot of opportunities,” said head coach Luke Fickell.
“That happens to guys here, and the guys who can fight through it—your Austin Spitlers of the world—get better every year, each and every week, and don’t let those things of having a James Laurinaitis or somebody who’s been starting for 2 or 3 years in front of you affect or hamper your growth.”
Aside from playing behind an All-Big Ten performer in Rolle, Klein has also had to deal with injury issues. Most recently he missed much of the spring with a hamstring injury. Now entering his third season, he still hasn't been able to show his coaches everything that he can do.
“The biggest thing once you get hurt is just getting back on the field and taking care of yourself,” he said. “That's the biggest thing, just getting back on the field and showing the coaches what you can do.”
But now he is healthy, and with the promised clean slate from new linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, Klein has obviously impressed his coaches in a short amount of time.
“Guys as freshmen or sophomores when they’re playing behind some really good players, you don’t get to see them on Saturdays to evaluate them,” Fickell said. “I think he has grown.”
Currently sitting atop the depth chart at middle linebacker—a position positively saturated with history at Ohio State—Klein realizes that his surroundings are rarefied air.
“When you commit here to play linebacker, you've got a lot to live up to,” he said. “So right when you sign the paper, you're kind of in it whether you want to be or not.”
Clearly Storm Klein wants to be in it. The question now is will it pay off in playing time?
“I hope so,” he said. “I've been working my butt off.”
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