The way Dallastown Area High School football coach Kevin Myers gushes, you can tell he has really enjoyed getting to work with Ben Kline.
"Ben's just an awesome kid. He's been great. He's a true coach's kid,'' Myers said. "He does whatever you ask him to do.''
In Kline's case, you can ask him to do a lot, because few high school football seniors can boast the raw tools he possesses. He's 6-foot-3. He weighs a solid 225 pounds. He's been timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and runs the 100 meters for his high school track team, clocking 11.15 in the event. He bench presses 365 pounds and squats 550.
He's also scored 1,880 on his SAT and 30 on the ACT while carrying a 2.9 grade-point average.
Kline combined those qualities to make 157 tackles as his Wildcats finished 11-1 this season. To make it all the more intriguing, it was only his second year playing linebacker. In fact, before ninth grade, Kline really wasn't into football.
"Actually, I didn't get start playing football until sixth grade. Soccer was my fall sport. Basketball was my No. 1 sport until I got moved up in football in ninth grade,'' Kline said.
By all accounts, Penn State gained a player with tremendous upside on Wednesday morning when Kline committed to the Nittany Lions. Kline originally had committed to Pitt but received a Penn State scholarship offer a couple of weeks ago, made an official visit to University Park over the weekend and decided to go to the Nittany Lions instead of the Panthers when Dave Wannstedt stepped down as coach at the Big East program Tuesday.
Kline picked Penn State over 15 other colleges, including Michigan, Rutgers, UConn and West Virginia.
"I just liked the atmosphere,'' Kline said. "They have a blue-collar mentality there, like me. Everybody loves hard work. They understand the values it takes to build a program, and I want to be a part of that.''
According to Kline, the value of hard work is something that's been instilled in him from an early age.
"None of my parents played any sports. My dad was a good athlete. He always runs his mouth about being the fastest kid in middle school - that's his athletic claim to fame. But he was in a family where, when you got old enough, you went to work,'' Kline said.
Kline has approached football with that same kind of attitude. Needing a tight end for the varsity team four years ago, Myers moved Kline up to the varsity.
"He decided then that he wanted to play in college and began to work to make it happen,'' Myers said.
The result is an athlete who looks like he was carved out of granite. But just becoming able to lift heavy weights and run fast weren't going to cut it for Kline. This season, he focused on improving his pass defense and wound up making three interceptions and batting down seven passes.
"That's something I really had to work on. The biggest object of this season was to get better in pass coverage,'' Kline said.
Kline's athleticism has enabled Myers to do some unusual things offensively, too. Kline led the Wildcats with 35 receptions for 510 yards but also ran for 338 yards, scoring a total of 13 touchdowns.
"We'll split him out and run what we call a tight end counter,'' Myers said. "He's a very consistent player. Even when teams tried to run away from him, he still made plays. He's a smart player. He knows the game. He's studied what would make him a better player.''
Kline's drive to become a big-time college football player has forced him to make sacrifices - he said he really enjoys music and used to play the piano and other instruments before work on improving his game cut too deeply into his free time. Kline has played an inside linebacker in Dallastown's 4-4 defense, but Nittany Lion assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden are waiting until he arrives on campus next summer to see where he best fits in Penn State's scheme.
"They think I can play all three positions,'' Kline said.