CHARLOTTE – The Panthers' fifth-round pick, Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein, is poised to contribute right away as a depth linebacker and on special teams.
"I'm very excited. I think Carolina is going to be a great fit for me," Klein said in a conference call. "I'm excited to get back to football. It's been a long, strenuous process, so I'm definitely happy to finally have a home."
Klein was a three-year starter at for the Cyclones, emerging as a sure-tackler and becoming one of the most productive linebackers in the Big 12.
He finished his career with 361 tackles and recorded five interceptions, four of which were returned for touchdowns.
His athletic ability was questioned by NFL draft analysts, but Klein is confident his success in a major conference has prepared him for the highest level.
"I've always had people question my athletic ability but I think I've put those rumors to rest. Obviously, the Carolina staff and organization saw enough in me to draft me," Klein said.
"Playing in a wide-open league like the Big 12, you have to be able to run and adjust on the fly. You have to make plays in space, keep your feet, take correct angles and be a solid tackler. That will definitely help me going into the NFL."
His willingness to perform on special teams will also serve him well in the NFL. Klein eventually became too valuable to the Cyclones to use him on special teams, but that's where he first made an impression on the Iowa State coaching staff.
"I played all special teams my freshman year – started all four – and then I played a little bit into my sophomore year until I got taken off just because of lack of depth at linebacker," Klein said. "I haven't played special teams in a while but I know it's very important, especially for the linebacker position coming into the NFL."
And when it comes to playing linebacker, Klein believes he can back-up all three positions.
"I played inside and outside. I played SAM backer and MIKE most of the time. Both of those positions are very familiar to me – you can pretty much swap me out," Klein said. "There's definitely a possibility that I could play at any one. We'll see where the depth is and where they need to put me. I'm up to play any position."