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K-State's Klein voted AP Big 12 player of year

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K-State's Klein voted AP Big 12 player of year

There were times when Collin Klein's mother couldn't help but worry, when she would watch her son take a snap from center, dodge a couple of defenders and then take off at a gallop.

The play would usually end up with Kansas State's quarterback taking a big hit, the kind that caused Kelly Klein to gasp. The kid would invariably drag himself off the turf, blood usually seeping from his elbows. He would adjust his facemask, hike back his shoulder pads and trundle back to the huddle and do it all again.

``I get emotional because I do worry,'' Kelly Klein admitted this week. ``But he does what he loves to do, so you have to be grateful that he has the physical ability to do it.''

Klein's prodigious physical ability, along with his even demeanor, unwavering faith and singular focus on getting better bit by bit all contributed to one of the finest careers in Kansas State history. On Wednesday, he was voted the AP Big 12 offensive player of the year.

``I'm just honored with this opportunity that the Lord has provided me here at K-State,'' said Klein, who made the All-Big 12 first team as a quarterback and was honorable mention as an all-purpose player. ``I'm just happy to represent Kansas State, our team and what we've been able to accomplish this season.''

The Heisman Trophy finalist set a slew of records while helping the seventh-ranked Wildcats to an 11-win season, the third conference title in school history and a berth opposite Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

Klein is the first player from Kansas State to be voted the Big 12's top offensive player. He received 14 of the 18 votes from members of the media who regularly cover the Big 12, while West Virginia's Tavon Austin got three votes and Terrance Williams of Baylor received the other one.

``It's an amazing thing and it's a huge honor, but the reward, you know, is just seeing him do his thing, and do what he loves to do,'' said Klein's father, Doug Klein. ``Truly, whether it's recognized or not, that's the reward.''

Klein's coach, Bill Snyder, was voted Big 12 coach of the year for the third time on Tuesday.

``He deserves all the compliments he can have,'' Snyder said. ``He's awfully good at what he does, and he's awfully good as a leader and he's awfully good as a field manager, and he's awfully good in all the physical aspects of the game - and he's a tremendous person.''

Defensive end Devonte Fields of Big 12 newcomer TCU was voted AP's defensive player of the year. He received seven votes to beat out Kansas State's Arthur Brown (four), Horned Frogs teammate Jason Verrett (three), Iowa State's A.J. Klein (two), and Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma (one each).

Fields was also the runaway winner of defensive newcomer of the year, while Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk was voted the conference's top newcomer on offense.

Klein has already won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and is up for several other national awards this week. He's one of three finalists for the Heisman, along with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, which will be handed out Saturday night in New York.

The senior from Loveland, Colo., was recruited to Kansas State under former coach Ron Prince, played for a while at wide receiver, and then transitioned back to quarterback. But he never approached the position in the way most do: He was just as comfortable bulldozing for yards as he was airing it out.

Klein threw for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns this season while running for 890 yards and 22 more touchdowns. He's the first player in the BCS era to have consecutive seasons with at least 10 touchdown passes and 20 touchdown runs, and the other three to even accomplish the feat once all won the Heisman: Auburn's Cam Newton in 2010, Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007 and Eric Crouch of Nebraska in 2000.

``Some crazy things have happened to lead our team and myself to this point,'' Klein said. ``There are a lot of reasons for that. There's a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation that have been put in on so many people's part, and so many people have invested in me when I was going through a hard time or struggling.''

Kansas State led the league with six first-team All-Big 12 selections: Klein, Brown, offensive lineman B.J. Finney, tight end Travis Tannahill, defensive lineman Meshak Williams and defensive back Ty Zimmerman. The Wildcats also had five second-team selections and eight honorable mentions.

Oklahoma State had the second-most first-team selections with five: running back Joseph Randle, wide receiver Josh Stewart, offensive lineman Lane Taylor and Quinn Sharp, who made it as both a punter and kicker.

Fields was joined on the first team by Verrett and TCU teammate Kenny Cain.

Oklahoma's Jefferson and Colvin were joined by Gabe Ikard on the first team. Baylor's Williams and Cyril Richardson, Texas Tech's LaAdrian Waddle and Kerry Hyder, West Virginia's Austin and Stedman Bailey, Iowa State linebackers Klein and Jake Knott and Texas' Alex Okafor also made the first team.

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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