Quietly ending a controversy
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Josh Kleinfelter probably didn't even know about the controversy he started as he approached Lycoming College's career rushing record.
In truth, by the time he finishes his career after Saturday's game at FDU-Florham, it won't matter anyhow.
"Tim Deasey was an explosive kid," said Lycoming head coach Mike Clark '93. "He could just fly."
However, in the summer after his senior year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association made a change that was a longtime coming – making postseason games count toward a team's overall season statistics. So that means, in 1990 and 1997, as the Warriors made postseason runs to the Division III title game, the stats in the playoffs didn't count.
"Brian Thompson was a phenomenal player," Clark said. "He had a pretty good yards-per-carry average."
No one really noticed the record book correction until this year, and it prompted the question – how did Tim Deasey break the school rushing record in 2001 when Brian Thompson, who graduated three years before him, held it now? Enter Kleinfelter.
Clark smiled as he remembered one of the first conversations he had with former head coach Frank Girardi after taking over the program in spring 2007.
"G told me this kid could be the best tailback we've ever had," Clark remembers. That praise was coming from a man who is celebrated as one of the finest small-college coaches ever, not to mention a man who coached 14 all-conference running backs and two All-Americans at the position during his 36-year career.
Kleinfelter, in many ways, lived up to Girardi's expectations from day one – earning Second Team All-MAC honors as a freshman and running for 1,123 yards while leading the Warriors to the NCAA playoffs as a sophomore in 2008. By the time his senior year rolled around, Kleinfelter was already just the fourth player in school history to earn all-league honors three times. He was within what most thought was shouting distance of the school's rushing record set by Thompson, needing 815 yards to reach the mark.
While many thought that since only 12 backs in the history of the program have run for 800 yards in a season, Kleinfelter would need a full season to do the work to get the record, what he has done this season is beyond special.
He joined Deasey as the only backs in school history to post two 200-yard games in a season. He was named to the D3Football.com Team of the Week twice. He rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games, establishing a school record. He cruised past Deasey's total for career yardage of 2,868 regular-season yards in the third game of the season and by the fifth week, he held the school's rushing record thanks to a 147-yard game at Albright in a 50-0 win.
"To be on the top of a list with guys like Brian Thompson, Tim Deasey, Cory Sheridan and Troy Erdman speaks volumes about the type of player that Josh Kleinfelter is," Clark said. "I won't say that Josh is definitely the best, but I won't say that those guys definitely are either. He's in the conversation."
As for how Kleinfelter feels about being in that conversation, he rarely lets anyone know by his words. Soft-spoken by nature, Kleinfelter nearly shrugged off the record when asked about it.
"It was a team effort all-around," he said. "I had help everywhere. It just kind of jumped up on me. I try not to think about records too much. The real thing that matters is championships."
His teammates, though, who helped the running back rush for more than 1,000 yards through the first seven games of the year (another College first) aren't so humble on Kleinfelter's behalf. Senior offensive lineman Matt Landseidal said, "We take as much credit as him for the record. He might not take as much as people think he does. But he's a great player. He never lets the first guy tackle him, that's the big thing."
As for whether he's the greatest or not, only one thing is for sure: Josh Kleinfelter will never tell you whether he is or not. He'll leave that up to you – and the numbers speak for themselves.