As the most vested member of the Vikings, Kleinsasser has been coming to training camp in Mankato every year since 1999. He is no stranger to the campus and for a short while each year anyway, it has because something of a second home.
"I thought I was done with dorms in college," Kleinsasser said. "I think I've spent more time in Gage Hall than a lot of students here have."
While he has been with the Vikings since the last year of the last century, he annually has learned the names of new teammates and places them with the faces. One area where that hasn't always been true has been at quarterback. He joked that he has seen his career prolonged due to the number of big-ticket quarterbacks the Vikings have brought in over the years.
"I've seen a lot of quarterbacks come through here," Kleinsasser said. "I played with Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Brett and now Donovan. I've been fortunate to have some good names coming through."
McNabb is the latest addition to that impressive list of quarterbacks, but he and Kleinsasser have something more in common than being on the same 2011 team. Both were part of the 1999 draft class and, while not many of those players are still in the league, the Vikings have three of them – McNabb (drafted No. 2 overall by the Eagles, Antoine Winfield (No. 23, Buffalo) and Kleinsasser (No. 44, Vikings).
The Class of 1999 was one marked by outstanding achievement and epic failure. The first three picks were quarterbacks – Tim Couch, McNabb and Akili Smith. While McNabb has Hall of Fame potential, both Couch and Smith were unqualified busts. However, the Class of '99 will be remembered for the talent it produced, including QBs McNabb and Culpepper, RBs Edgerrin James and Ricky Williams, WRs Torry Holt and Donald Driver, DE Javon Kearse, LB Joey Porter and CBs Champ Bailey, Winfield and Chris McAlister.
Kleinsasser, Winfield and McNabb have discussed their distinction of being the last of a dying breed, but said that all are thankful that, 12 years after being drafted, each of them is still playing the game they've loved since childhood.
"It's thinned out pretty good," Kleinsasser said of his draft class. "They made the right decision with us I guess. There are a lot of circumstances in football. Some guys are more fortunate with injuries and being in the right place at the right time. There are a lot of variables, but I think we're all pretty proud we're still here."
The decision to reduce the enormous salaries paid to rookies over the years was due in small part to draft classes like his. The decisions of the Browns and Bengals to draft franchise QBs (and pay them franchise-type money) set back football in Ohio for years to come after their failure.
"It's one of the issues with the draft and rookie pay," Kleinsasser said. "You can probably put (the 1999 draft) as Evidence A on why they need to [impose a rookie wage cap]. It's tough, because you never know how it's going to play out."
Kleinsasser said he isn't thinking about retirement, but, as the number of Mankato trips mount, he can't help but think this may be his last pilgrimage to the town that hosts training camp.
"You never know when it's going to be the last time," Kleinsasser said. "I have a lot of memories from here – both good and bad. Maybe when I leave this time, I'll take a chance to look around and remember the different places around here. You never know if you'll see them again."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.