Friday, August 09, 2002

Klecko following in father's footsteps

The Associated Press

        PHILADELPHIA — Dan Klecko welcomes all of the comparisons to his famous father.

        Klecko, a senior defensive lineman at Temple, is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl defensive lineman Joe Klecko. And to those who watch Owls games, the younger Klecko's style of play looks awfully familiar.

        “My whole game is modeled after him,” Klecko said of his father, who also starred at Temple. “I have good techniques. I've learned things from my father, things that NFL guys use.”

        The younger Klecko is an All-America candidate after a stellar junior season in which he was a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection. He started all 11 games last season and recorded 62 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and 27 quarterback hurries. An undersized lineman, at 6-foot-1, 276 pounds, he will move to defensive end — a position more suitable for his size.

        “He is one of the premier players in the country,” Temple head coach Bobby Wallace said. “He's one of the top 30 players in America and if that doesn't get him to the next level, then I don't know what would.”

        Klecko doesn't concern himself with thinking about the draft right now.

        “I don't even worry about that,” he said. “I put all of that stuff out of my mind. I'll leave that up to the experts.”

        Klecko certainly has the bloodlines to make it to the NFL.

        Joe Klecko, who played 12 seasons in the NFL before knee injuries ended his career, was a member of the “New York Sack Exchange” — the New York Jets' dominant defensive front line that included Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam in the early 1980s.

        In 1981, Klecko was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year after recording 20 1/2 sacks — before sacks became an official statistic. He was also the first NFL player named to the Pro Bowl at three positions — defensive end, tackle and nose guard.

        Dan Klecko knows all about his father's accomplishments and realizes comparisons will be made throughout his career.

        “The guy was a great player and if you don't recognize that, then maybe something's wrong with you,” the younger Klecko said. “You're never going to get out of his shadow. The guy was an All-Pro and so I'm not worried about the comparisons.”

        It's that type of attitude that has made many people, including Klecko's coach, a big fan.

        “He's been raised right,” Wallace said. “His mother did a good job with him as a person and his father did a great job coaching him.”

        While Klecko's size might make scouts think twice about whether he can succeed at the next level, Wallace thinks NFL teams will recognize his talent.

        “He's a nightmare for scouts because he's 6-foot, one-quarter inches and somebody might get him to 6-foot-1 if they stretch it,” Wallace said. “But Dan is one of the best. He was good from Day 1 and he's gotten stronger and better since.

        “When I was (an assistant coach) at Auburn we had seven or eight guys at his position who played pro and I wouldn't trade him for even one of them.”

        Like his father, Dan Klecko has found a home at Temple. While not one of the high-profile Division I programs, Temple has a produced a number of NFL players — including former Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Watson, cornerback Kevin Ross and offensive tackle Tre' Johnson.

        “We're still playing Division I football, still seeing the top-notch teams like Miami and Virginia Tech,” Dan Klecko said. “Just because we don't have the best record doesn't mean we can't play. I don't think the NFL turns its cheek to anyone. If you can play football, they're going to find you.”


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