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July 8, 2012
Two decades after David and Jimmy Klingler lit up scoreboards across the Southwest while quarterbacking Houston's run-and-shoot offense, their sons plan to continue the family tradition.
But this next generation of Klinglers offers a twist.
Luke Klingler, the son of former Cincinnati Bengals first-round draft pick David Klingler, plays his dad's old position at Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch. But his cousin Cory Klingler, the son of former Houston quarterback Jimmy Klingler, is forging his own path as an offensive tackle at Manvel (Texas) High. Both are participating Sunday in the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge at DeSoto High School near Dallas.
One look at Cory Klingler explains why he opted against playing quarterback. The 16-year-old simply outgrew the position.
"When Cory was in kindergarten, he was six inches taller than every kid in his class and 30 pounds heavier," Jimmy Klingler said. "He was always the biggest kid for his age group, and he was always the youngest one. I knew he was going to be big. I just didn't know how big he was going to get."
How big did he get?
Well, he's only 16 years old, yet he already is about 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds. For comparison's sake, Luke Klingler said he's 6-foot-2 3/4 and 196 pounds.
Cory Klingler's size comes from his mother's side of the family. His uncle is former Houston Oilers offensive lineman Jeff Neal. His grandfather on his mother's side, George Neal, is a former high school defensive line coach.
Not only does he have the requisite size for the position, he also has an offensive lineman's mentality.
"I love the offensive line," Cory Klingler said. "I like being in the trenches, where all the action is."
He wants the chance to block for his cousin.
Cory and Luke Klingler live about 45 minutes from each other, but they consider themselves as close as brothers. Throughout their high school careers, one cousin has tried to talk the other into transferring to his school.
At this point, Luke continues to attend Cinco Ranch while Cory remains at Manvel, where his dad works as the offensive coordinator. But that doesn't mean their dream of teaming up has gone away. Both are potential Division-I prospects, and they've discussed the possibility of choosing the same college.
"We've definitely talked about it quite a bit," Luke Klingler said. "It would be really cool, I think, to be able to look to the left or right tackle spot and see 'Klingler' on his back. That would be really cool to me."
First they must prove themselves worthy of FBS offers. Having the Klingler name certainly can't hurt.
David Klingler finished fifth in the 1990 Heisman Trophy balloting and remains one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history. He continues to hold several FBS records, including touchdown passes in a game (11), passing yards in a game (716), touchdown passes per game in a single season (4.9 in 1990) and passing yards per game in a single season (467.3 in 1990).
Jimmy Klingler succeeded his older brother as Houston's quarterback in 1992 and threw for 3,818 yards and 32 touchdowns, the third-highest single-season total for both categories in the history of the old Southwest Conference, which went defunct after the 1995 season (David held both records by throwing for 5,140 yards and 54 touchdowns in 1990).
David Klingler insists his son is much more advanced as a passer than he was at that age. The former first-round draft pick pointed out that he rarely threw the ball while quarterbacking a wishbone offense at Houston (Texas) Stratford High before making the dramatic switch to Houston's run-and-shoot attack.
"He's going to be a junior [in high school], and he's probably throwing the ball as well now as I did when I was going into my junior year in college," David Klingler said.
Of course, the game has changed quite a bit in the two decades since David Klinger starred for Houston. And that could impact the recruitment of each cousin.
"Luke is a drop-back NFL pro-style quarterback," Jimmy Klingler noted. "He's not the shotgun, zone read guy. There's going to be some limitations on where he can go just because a lot of teams aren't running pro-style offenses anymore in college. As far as Cory goes, who knows? It's going to be about how tall he gets."
Even the family connections can only take them so far.
Neither David Klingler nor Jimmy Klingler had a distinguished pro career, so their names are familiar only to people who still remember the run-and-shoot era of Houston football. Cory Klingler said it's the parents of his classmates and teammates who often ask whether he's related to the former Houston quarterbacks.
Here's another testament to the passage of time. When Luke Klingler is asked about his favorite quarterbacks, he mentions a more recent alum of the same high school that produced his father.
"This past year, I liked watching Andrew Luck quite a bit," he said. "He came from the same area where I live right now. And he's kind of the same way. He wasn't always the fastest guy or biggest guy out there, but he was smart and always knew what to do. You could see from what he did in high school, he was still figuring it out. By the time he got to college, especially this past year, you could tell he'd worked on it a lot."
Luke Klingler also is still figuring it out. Of course, nobody's comparing him to Andrew Luck just yet. But he has a nice arm, and he certainly has the bloodlines to succeed at the next level. He also has the proper quarterback's mentality. Even back when he was playing baseball, Luke Klingler was the type of kid who loved to step to the plate with the game on the line.
Luke also has a cerebral approach to the game that he learned from his father.
"One thing he's told me for a long time is there's no such thing as physical toughness - it's all mental," Luke Klingler said. "That's one thing that's really helped me because physically I'm not the biggest guy. I'm tall, but I'm not the strongest, and I'm certainly not the fastest. But I can make the throws, and if something's wrong, I can figure out what I'm doing wrong."
Both parents say they tried to encourage their sons without pushing them toward football.
David Klingler said his only advice to Luke was that whatever option he chose - whether it be playing football, joining the marching band or any other pursuit - he should commit to it and do it to his fullest.
"This is a road that no one can choose for you," David Klingler said. "You've got to love competition. You've got to love - especially if you're a quarterback who's going to stand back in the pocket - you've got to love getting hit. You've got to like the challenge, like to compete, like the pressure of everything being on your shoulders. Not many kids are cut out for that. I tell him all the time, 'If you want to play, play. If you don't, don't.' I can't choose that road for him. So far, he sure seems to like it."
Jimmy Klingler gets to work with his son more directly because they're both part of Manvel's football program. Cory Klingler said having his dad on the coaching staff has made him a better player.
"If I don't work hard, then my coach will go tell him and I'll get chewed out by my father," Cory Klingler said. "It helps me work a little harder than anyone else."
That work ethic has helped Cory Klingler catch the attention of FBS programs. Although his size certainly is a major reason why he has emerged as a Division-I prospect, his tenacity also has played a part.
The same mentality that drew Klingler to the offensive line has helped him embrace the responsibilities essential to succeeding at the next level.
"Cory's biggest asset is the fact that he's willing to put in the time in the weight room and get out there flipping tires and running drills and doing stuff when other kids aren't," Jimmy Klingler said. "That's his biggest deal. Luke kind of shies away from the weight room. He doesn't really like it. But he can roll out of bed and throw a 15-yard out. It's just a little bit different. As a quarterback, I hated lifting and hated being in the weight room. But it's something that you had to do. Luke's getting better at it."
This latest showcase should give each cousin a better idea of exactly where he stands. The Rivals Underclassmen Challenge features plenty of outstanding 2014 and 2015 prospects. Many of them already have Division-I offers.
If the Klinglers perform well Sunday, they could take a big step toward receiving offers of their own. If they struggle, they'll realize just how much more work needs to be done.
"I think it will really help get my name out there," Cory Klingler said.
That name's already familiar to people old enough to remember the Southwest Conference.
Cory and Luke want to reintroduce it to a new generation.