Iowa State Linebacker Can Now Say He’s Completed the “Tri-State Trifecta”
I'm not sure the term "Tri-State Trifecta" has ever been used before, but it's the only thing I could think of when I heard that veteran NFL Linebacker A.J. Klein was traded to the Chicago Bears last week.
By definition, Klein has been something of a journeyman football player since being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He's played for six teams since then, and in this phase of his career, he's now become a veteran voice on a young and aspirational defensive line for the rebuilding Bears.
Klein's name should hold weight for Tri-Staters. You can't tell his story without mentioning Wisconsin, Iowa, and now Illinois.
Klein's Wisconsin Roots:
Klein was born in Appleton, WI, and attended high school in Kimberly, where his team went 37-1 in a campaign that included back-to-back championships in his final two years. He was a track and field star too, competing as a sprinter in 2008, showing he was a man of great speed and agility.
When Rivals.com graded him as a three-star recruit, he saw scholarship offers, largely from Midwest schools, pour in. He received offers from Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, and Wyoming. He accepted a scholarship from Iowa State. He wanted to be a Cyclone.
A Wisconsin Boy's Success in Iowa:
Klein's decision proved to be a fruitful one. His career at Iowa State lasted four years (2009 to 2012). He stuffed the stat-sheet immediately, his freshman year bringing 17 tackles as he played in every game. He started 10 games his sophomore year, and began racking up interceptions and even more tackles.
Junior year, he started all 13 games, and recorded 116 tackles and an interception (returned for a touchdown too). He saw accolades in the form of Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors.
Now, Klein Can Add Illinois to His Resume:
Last week, Klein came to the Chicago Bears from the Ravens as part of a trade package for All-Pro Linebacker Roquan Smith. Klein suddenly sees himself as a veteran voice for one of the youngest defenses in the league. But by putting on blue and orange, all three of the Tri-States are now a part of his still-developing story.
Klein has big shoes to fill in terms of trying to replace one of the most productive defensive players in the league in Roquan Smith. But if the Midwest has shaped his mindset in anyway, he knows all about putting your head down and working hard.