Set your DVR on the NFL Network for Saturday at 3 p.m.
That’s when former Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein will be participating in the 88th annual East-West Shrine Game. It’s the longest running all-star college football game in America and Klein, who recorded 361 tackles during his career at Iowa State, is excited for the opportunity.
“It’s a big honor,” Klein told Cyclone Fanatic. “It’s one of the most prestigious games and has been going on the longest. It’s a big honor for me to get into it and play with a lot of great players across the nation. I’ll also be able to have the opportunity to showcase my game in front of NFL scouts.”
Klein is currently projected by most draft “experts” to be a mid to late round pick. However, Saturday’s exhibition will provide him with an opportunity to improve that stock, as will his upcoming appearance at the NFL’s Combine, which Klein will participate in on Feb. 20.
Like his former Iowa State teammate Jake Knott, Klein is working on improving his speed between now and mid-February.
“I obviously have a lot of question marks that people say about my speed,” said Klein. “I’m spending these weeks getting my body in shape – dropping body fat and getting into the best physical shape of my life. I’m working on footwork and I’ve been going through positional drills.”
Klein is currently training for the draft in Pensacola, Fla. Earlier this month; he signed a contract with XAM Sports and agent Scott Smith.
“Overall, I’m just preparing myself for drills that I will see at the combine,” said Klein. “Speed is very, very important. They put a lot of emphasis on that. I’ll spend a lot of time training on the technique for the 40 and everything else that goes along with that as far as weight training – explosiveness in the weight room.”
Klein began the 2012 season at 248 pounds and plans on entering the combine at around 246 pounds. That’s where he is at right now. Dropping the two pound should help him run a faster 40.
“I am going to maintain right where I am at. I am a little bit lighter," said Klein. I got sick before the bowl game so I dropped a little bit of weight. Right now I am trying to pack that back on with solid muscle mass and basically, I want to stay right around the 246 range."
"The big thing is whatever weight I end up at, I want to make sure I am comfortable with that weight. I feel like I can still move and have the quickness that I need to be able to perform.”
Training in Florida
Some NFL prospects stick around their college campus to prepare for the draft. Some, Klein included, go elsewhere to train. Klein, who has spent the last few weeks in Pensacola, Fla., said that being away from what’s normal has helped him focus on the task at hand.
"It’s a nice place to be just to get my mind off of things and be able to focus on one single goal," said Klein. "That goal right now is obviously to perform well at the combine in hopes of possibly making an NFL team in the future. That has always been my dream. I am going to do everything in my power to accomplish that. I think for me at this point in time, being down here in Pensacola is the best situation for me.”