Dan Klecko has spent four memorable years starring on Temple’s defensive line and last Sunday he officially left the nest.
Klecko is shedding his cherry and white to put on the silver and blue of the New England Patriots after being drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft as the 117th overall pick.
In a word, Klecko’s career has been unlikely. It’s uncommon to see a defensive lineman his size dominate games like he has.
“He is one heck of a player.” West Virgina University Defensive Coordinator Rick Trickett said. “He’s quick, and has a motor that doesn’t stop running.”
Klecko did not pay attention to the first day of the draft.
“I didn’t even watch that much yesterday,” he said.
“I just watched movies just to keep my mind off the draft. I wasn’t expecting much [Saturday]. I am just elated to go [on Sunday].”
But he was relieved when he was picked.
“I was just so happy to finally get this weight off my back,” Klecko said. “It was such a thrill. It really was.”
Klecko was not the first in his family to get drafted out of Temple.
His father, Joe, was a sixth round pick 20 years ago.
His father went on to star for the New York Jets, making four Pro Bowl appearances.
But as good as his dad was, Klecko has showed him up on every stage so far.
“I’m just so happy for him it’s unbelievable,” Klecko’s father said.
“We were just talking a couple of minutes ago and Danny has broken every record of mine in college. I was drafted in the sixth round and he’s just been drafted in the fourth. He keeps plummeting me into the depths here.”
Much like his dad, Klecko has been applauded for his work ethic. Every scouting report, every player he’s gone head-to-head with, and every coach says that he works harder than anyone.
Boston College center Dan Koppen said he was the toughest player he’s faced in three years.
Rich Rodriguez, head coach of West Virginia said, “If he’s not a first-team All-American, then I haven’t seen one. He plays the game like you would want every one of your players to play.”
Despite the praise, many scouts felt he was too small to be an effective NFL player.
At a shade under 6’0″, and 285 pounds, he is labeled as an undersized player.
Players he outperformed, such as former Miami defensive lineman and Eagles first round pick Jerome MacDougle, were picked ahead of him, but Klecko does not care what the scouts think.
“Hey that’s fine,” he said.
“That’s why they don’t make the decisions, the guys that do those scouting reports. It’s the coaches who can see who is a player and who isn’t and that’s all that counts.”
Though he is smaller than most at his position, Klecko can bench press an astounding 525 pounds and has a knack for getting to the quarterback.
He can also play several positions on the defensive line, likely nose tackle and defensive end for New England.
“I think they just saw someone who could play well, and is a good football player,” Klecko said. “I do think that helps that I do give that versatility.”
The harsh reality of the NFL is that most prospects don’t make it past training camp, but the opportunity is there for Klecko.
He has the heart, the desire and the talent to succeed in the NFL.
The rest is up to him.
Ian Leonard can be reached at email@example.com.