EDITORIAL: Dallastown grad Kline a star off the field for Penn State

York Dispatch

Major college football has absorbed plenty of criticism over the years.

Much of it is deserved.

The sport has been plagued by sordid scandals of nearly of every sort — financial, sexual and criminal.

Players, coaches, administrators and boosters can each share in the blame for the corruption.

Unfortunately, Penn State has not been immune. The Sandusky scandal will forever tarnish the university's reputation.

That doesn't mean, however, that big-time college football doesn't produce some truly special individuals.

One of the most impressive young men in the sport hails from right here in York County.

His name is Ben Kline, and he's a fifth-year linebacker at Penn State.

Kline, however, is much more than just a linebacker. In fact, his PSU playing career has been rather ordinary, mostly because of a series of serious injuries. He's only received infrequent playing time with the Nittany Lions, and this year he hasn't gotten on the field at all.

Off the field, however, the Dallastown High School graduate is performing at an All-American level.

The American Football Coaches Association recognized that fact when they named Kline to their Allstate Good Works Team earlier this week. He's one of just 11 athletes in the Football Bowl Subdivision to earn the honor. It's a recognition he richly deserves.

It would take nearly the entire editorial page to detail all of Kline's off-the-field activities, but here are just some of his highlights:

•He's served as the president of Penn State's Uplifting Athletes chapter for the last two years. In 2014, the PSU chapter raised a record-breaking $140,000 for Kidney Cancer awareness and research at the football team's Lift for Life event.

•He was among a contingent of PSU players to visit Washington for Rare Disease Awareness Day last winter, and he's also been involved in THON and Special Olympics while at Happy Valley. In addition, he co-founded a student organization this summer that benefits an orphanage in Kenya.

•He's a nominee for an American Rhodes Scholarship, which is the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship award in the world.

•He's a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, a six-time Dean's List student and a Lion's Paw Senior Honor Society member. He's already graduated with a degree in finance, finishing his undergraduate work with a 3.76 cumulative grade-point average. He's currently pursuing a master's degree in international affairs.

Not surprisingly, PSU head coach James Franklin can't heap enough praise on Kline, despite the fact that Kline is not a big contributor on the field.

"He's just a great guy," Franklin said during a stop in York in April. "He's been, I think, one of our biggest leaders off the field with community service. I don't care what anybody says. He's had a very successful career and experience at Penn State."

Franklin's right. Kline is a great guy, and he's a great ambassador for college football in general, and Penn State in particular.

And let's be honest, both of those institutions are in desperate need of as many Ben Klines as they can find.