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After long wait, Dallastown grad Kline finally gets back on field for Penn State

BOB COHN
YorkDispatch


Ben Kline's long road back finally ended Saturday at Beaver Stadium, giving way to a new start.

For the first time in nearly two years, the Penn State linebacker and fifth-year senior, stepped onto a football field and played in a real game.

"It was fun," the Dallastown High School graduate said. "I don't take for granted any opportunities to be out there with my teammates, and it was fun to be out there with them and get back playing on the field and play a good game."

Kline came off the bench as part of the depth required to handle Army's grinding, triple-option offense. Penn State won 20-14 in another game in which the defense carried Penn State.

Kline tore his left Achilles tendon during a workout in the summer of 2014 and missed all of last season. In November 2013, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a game against Minnesota. He stayed in but was shut down for the rest of that season.

"There are not too many injuries now, the way medicine is, that keep you out for two years," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

As late as August, Kline was expected to be back for the start of the 2015 season, but his return was delayed considerably.

"Yeah, he's had setbacks," Franklin said. "The specifics of those setbacks I won't get into."

Injury history: A reserve during his freshman season in 2012, Kline also had shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring practice in 2013.

Asked if he ever considered quitting, he said, "I have a great support system here. My teammates and coaches have been great to me. There were definitely some tough times coming back from injury. I think anybody goes through that, but just leaning on my teammates really helped me."

Kline in the meantime found other ways to contribute. He is president of Penn State's fundraising Uplift for Athletes chapter, does other work in the community and on campus and has remained a team leader. The injuries, have not "affected the type of impact he's had on our team in terms of leadership and being a role model," said Franklin, who called Kline a "very, very well-respected member of the team."

Kline graduated in December 2014 with a degree in finance. It took him 3 1/2 years. He has started work on a master's degree in international affairs and is competing for an American Rhodes Scholarship.

"He's smart. He's classy. He's seasoned. He's mature," Franklin said. "He's a really, really interesting guy."

Urschel comparison: Someone asked Kline if attaining a Rhodes Scholarship would put him "one up" on former Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel, a noted math whiz who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. No way, Kline said. Urschel, he said, is in a "totally different league," and he didn't mean the NFL.

"John is exponentially smarter than me," said Kline, nevertheless displaying a strong vocabulary and later stating a goal of "working with economic policy."

"I think (Kline's) one of these guys if anybody went out and had lunch with him, you would want to work with the guy," Franklin said. "He's really the total package."