By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I can relate to them because I was them," Klemm says. "Like me back then, they've never been anywhere. Some of them have no idea where Dallas is. They think it's all horses and cows. And there are schools that negatively recruit against us by telling them that our classes are too hard or that Dallas doesn't like black people. But once I get them here to SMU, the area and Coach Jones sells itself. I tell them that they're not making a four-year decision, but a 40-year decision. Football will end. But when they get their degree from SMU, the sky will always be the limit."
Also in Klemm's recruiting tool box are his childhood friends, several of whom are now prominent L.A.-area high school coaches. They serve as liaisons between him and their prized prospects. His tattoos form a bond. He's even—amazingly—turned an embarrassing liability into a fruitful asset.
That's right: Pony Excess.
The ESPN documentary aired last fall, detailing SMU's pay-for-play scandals of the '80s. Hired in early 2008, Jones had already begun the slow process of resurrecting the program from its infamous "death penalty," which saw the 1987 season canceled. The team has played consecutive bowl games for the first time since the "Pony Express" glory days of Eric Dickerson and Craig James. And because of Klemm, the Mustangs are nabbing recruits they have no business even approaching. If the Mustangs—who open the 2011 season September 4 at Texas A&M—play to their sudden recruiting prowess, they should only get better.
And in a way, Klemm says, they'll have the movie to thank.
"I mention SMU at first and they get this bewildered look," Klemm says. "Some of these kids thought SMU was some little Division II school. But that show opened a lot of young eyes. The feedback is much more positive than negative. Kids are like, 'Wow, Coach, SMU used to win big time.' And I tell them we're going to do it again. But this time we're going to do it the right way."