Former walk-on Stevo Klotz’s “physicality” is a critical component of Iowa State’s offense

Oct 14, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Iowa State Cyclones tight end Stevo Klotz (49) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

  AMES — There’s just one person who calls Iowa State tight end Stevo Klotz by his given name.

 His mom — and only after he’d gotten into a bit of mischief as a youngster.

 “That’s about it,” said Klotz, whose full first name is Stevenson.

 To everyone else, the former walk-on from Chaska, Minn., is known as Stevo, or simply Steve. He’s cool with either monicker, but coaches prefer Stevo because, presumably, it better suits his bruising and grit-based style of play.

 “Number one, he adds a level of physicality to what we do,” said the Cyclones’ first-year offensive coordinator, Nate Scheelhaase, who hopes to construct a winning game plan on that side of the ball in Saturday’s 9:15 p.m. Big 12 matchup with BYU (5-4, 2-4) a Provo, Utah. “We feel like (that) gives us an advantage just in how we want to attack defenses; just the mindset and mentality we want to have as an offense.”

 Klotz’s versatility within a deep tight ends room has also helped ISU (5-4, 4-2) begin to get some traction in terms of accumulating yards and scoring points. The Cyclones still rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in both of those offensive categories (337.2 yards per game, 23.6 points per game), but the tight ends have boosted that often meager production. Four different ISU tight ends have scored at least one touchdown this season — and only two other FBS programs (Notre Dame and Temple) can say the same.

 “I think that’s a tribute to (Cyclone tight ends) coach (Taylor Mouser), and everyone in the room because everyone’s kind of got that same mindset he has,” said Klotz, who capped last month’s 30-10 win at Cincinnati with his first career touchdown grab from quarterback Rocco Becht. “We’re all gonna work. We’re all gonna work hard to do whatever’s asked of us.”

 For Klotz, that meant shining on special teams early in his career before following in the footsteps of former Cyclones Jared Rus and Sam Seonbuchner at the “F” tight end position. It’s an often thankless job that nonetheless is highly valued by ISU head coach Matt Campbell and his staff. If there’s a “glue” for the Cyclones offense, the “F” tight end provides much of it. 

 “I would say along all those (winning) teams (at ISU), thee have been the Stevo Klotz’s that have been the pillar of why we’ve maybe sprung the big run, or why we’ve been great on kickoff return — a Kene (Nwangwu) kickoff return, or a Jaylin (Noel) kickoff return. It’s doing all the hard things that nobody really sees.”

 Campbell said there are typically “15 to 20 guys” on his team who serve primarily on special teams, but also dot the offense and defense, who embody those traits. Klotz is obviously one of them for a Cyclone team that seeks to ensure bowl eligibility for the sixth time in seven seasons against the banged-up Cougars, who are 4-0 at home and 1-4 on the road. 

 “We know we’ll get their best shot (with) how they play the game,” Campbell said. “It’s gonna be a great opportunity but also a great challenge for this team.”

 Klotz groups those two terms into a single category. The 6-4, 260-pound junior didn’t work his way up from walk-on status to crucial contributor by choosing easy paths to self-development. He climbed the depth chart by studying the game, earning his snaps, and learning from those who came before him.

 “Just sitting behind someone like Jared Rus, who essentially did what I’m doing — he helped me learn and I kind of follow his footsteps,” Klotz said. “I take everything I can from him and implement it into my game.”

 Against Cincinnati, that meant finally scoring a touchdown. Klotz heard Becht make the call, then looked at the list of plays on his wrist while his imagination — and eventually his body — took flight.

  “I ran the route, turned around and the ball was coming at me,” Klotz said. “So I just jumped.  I kind of blacked out after I caught it. So I kind of just stood there. It was like, ‘OK, what do I do, first time?’ But it was really cool.”