After the Panthers selected A.J. Klein in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft, Klein went with his family and friends to Tanners Grill and Bar in Kimberly, Wis.

The restaurant was the same one he and his high school teammates ate at before Friday night games during their two state championship seasons. And it was where the former Iowa State linebacker wanted to go that Saturday night four years later to thank his supporters.

“I’m representing a small Kimberly town,” Klein said. “I’m only the third guy from my high school that’s made it to the NFL. The whole entire town took pride in that.”

From a town of fewer than 7,000 people, Klein was overlooked by most big-time college programs coming out of high school. And even on draft weekend, the Panthers were surprised he fell to them in the fifth round.

But now that he’s in the NFL, he plans to make his mark, and it started this past weekend at Carolina’s rookie minicamp.

Klein was one of five draft picks that competed alongside 54 other players vying for a permanent spot on the roster. Klein’s ability to play all three linebacker positions as well as work as a special teams player will allow him to contribute immediately.

“I do want to play special teams, mainly because I do want to see the field as early as I can and I think that’s my ticket to get on the field early,” Klein said. “That’s a way I can make myself versatile and make myself a person people want to have on their team.”