When I was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January 1999 as a fan, one of the first stops I made was to visit the bust of recently inducted Viking Paul Krause. The day Krause was inducted was especially satisfying to me, the readers of the Viking Update, and the Viking fan clubs of Ohio because we had participated in letter writing campaigns so that the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions would become part of the Hall of Fame. It was a travesty that it took as long as it did. How Krause became a Viking, his storied NFL career, and his eventual induction makes for a very good story.
Over the course of the Vikings' history, three players come to mind when considering the price paid to obtain players, which were, simply put, robberies.
There was the trade of our very own Viking Update owner reserve defensive end Bob Lurtsema to the Seattle Seahawks for Ahmad Rashad, who became a Pro Bowl wide receiver. There was the claiming of Cris Carter from the Philadelphia Eagles for the $100 waiver price for another perennial Pro Bowl receiver. And if you want to look back to 1969, there was the trade of Marlin McKeever and a late draft choice to the Washington Redskins for Paul Krause. On August 1, 1998, Paul Krause officially became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Krause, born on February 19, 1942, in Flint, Michigan. He was a 6-2, 200-pound free safety from the University of Iowa who became the leading pass interceptor of all time with 81 steals during a 16-season career with Washington and Minnesota from 1964 to 1979 (1964-1967 Washington Redskins / 1968-1979 Minnesota Vikings).
Krause could play all sports and play them all well. Run, throw, catch, hit, you name it. As a sophomore at the University of Iowa, he batted almost .400 and was an All-America center fielder. You could say he was a natural. And not just in baseball. He excelled in every sport he participated in. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Track. Golf. There is a story about how he got started in golf. As a freshman at Iowa, Krause took golf as an elective course. He never had played it, but by the end of the semester he had a 4 handicap. It all came so easily. Especially baseball. Krause always liked baseball better than football. "Mickey Mantle was my idol," he said. "I was a switch-hitter and wore his No. 7. Al Kaline was also an idol, but as a young kid growing up, we all wanted to be Mantle.'"
By the end of his first year of varsity baseball at Iowa in 1962, twelve major league teams contacted him with offers as high as $50,000. He weighed signing a bonus contract and leaving school, but decided against it. "I played baseball with some of the best in Michigan at that time," he said. "We would go to Tiger Stadium to work out and play with Bill Freehan, Jim Northrup, Willie Horton, Dave Campbell, Dave DeBusschere. And I played in Class A summer leagues with a lot of guys in the majors and minors." He was a can't-miss. During his junior year, the New York Yankees were after him. So were the Tigers, Indians and Pirates. They all wanted to sign Krause.
What a career he was going to have. Then he dislocated his shoulder playing football while playing wide receiver and safety for his head coach, longtime Viking offensive coordinator and head coach, Jerry Burns. As Krause went up for a pass against Michigan, he was tackled while in the air and his life changed forever when he hit the ground. He landed on his shoulder and dislocated it. "They put it back in place right there on the field," Krause said. "That's how they did it back then. It was kind of brutal." The shoulder mended, but his arm was never the same. He could still run and hit, but his arm, his ticket to major league baseball, never was the same. "There was absolutely no way I could throw anymore," Krause said. "I tried playing center field. But I couldn't throw the ball. Mentally it got me down. I didn't have my heart in it after that." So he turned to football and put his heart into that.
While playing for Iowa through his senior season, he was a two-way star as a wide receiver and halfback during his college career. After completing his senior season, Krause was selected for the East-West Shrine game, Coaches' All-America game, and the College All-Star game and became the second-round draft pick of the Redskins in 1964.
Krause had the kind of a blue-ribbon rookie season in 1964 that few ever achieve. He led the NFL in interceptions with 12, was named to the All-NFL first team, was runner-up to teammate Charley Taylor for NFL Rookie of the Year honors, and was named to his first of eight Pro Bowls. During his landmark rookie season, Krause intercepted passes in seven straight games and he came near to matching that mark in 1968, when he had steals in six consecutive games.
In his second Pro Bowl following the 1965 season, he intercepted two passes. Although he intercepted 28 passes in his first four seasons, he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for linebacker Marlin McKeever and a seventh-round draft choice in 1968. "Vince Lombardi came in as the Redskins' coach in 1969 and said, "What were they thinking of here when they traded Krause?' " Krause said. With the Vikings, Krause excelled for 12 more seasons before retiring after the 1979 campaign. He was named All-NFL four different times, All-Eastern Conference twice (1964, 1965), and All-NFC five years.
Krause was the starting free safety for the Vikings in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI. He also started in the 1969 NFL championship game and NFC title games in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1977. He intercepted one pass in Super Bowl IV and recovered a fumble in Super Bowl IX. He led the NFC in interceptions with 10 in 1975. It took a three-interception season in his final 1979 campaign to surpass Emlen Tunnell, who had 79 steals, for the all-time record. He currently ranks third with 1,185 career yards on interception returns. The durable Krause missed only two games with injuries in 16 seasons. Through those 16 seasons many exciting plays come to mind such as:
Nov. 23, 1969: Krause stepped in front of Pittsburgh receiver Roy Jefferson and intercepted a Dick Shiner pass, then went 70 yards for a touchdown down the left sideline at Met Stadium. It was the first score in a 52-14 Vikings victory, and it was a club record for longest interception return at that time.
Jan. 4, 1970: Krause leaped high in the end zone to intercept a pass from Cleveland quarterback Bill Nelsen at the start of the second half of the NFL championship game. The Vikings led 24-0 at the time, and Krause's interception guaranteed the Browns would not come back. The Vikings won 27-7 and advanced to their first Super Bowl.
Oct. 29, 1972: Krause intercepted a pass intended for Green Bay's John Brockington and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown in Lambeau Field. The interception return against quarterback Scott Hunter broke a 13-13 tie with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the Vikings won 27-13. "I was ready to catch the ball," Brockington said. "Krause came from nowhere."
Nov. 19, 1972: The Vikings were trailing the Rams 20-10 early in the second half in the Los Angeles Coliseum when Jim Marshall hit Willie Ellison. The L.A. running back fumbled, Krause scooped the ball on the run and went 30 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings won 45-41.
Dec. 14, 1975: Marshall forced another fumble when he hit Detroit QB Joe Reed. Linebacker Wally Hilgenberg recovered, ran 15 yards, then lateraled to Krause, Hilgenberg's former University of Iowa teammate. Krause went 70 yards with the lateral, the Vikings' only touchdown in a 17-10 loss to the Lions in the Pontiac Silverdome. "Sure I was pooped," Krause said. "Running 70 yards for touchdowns is not what I'm paid to do."
Oct. 16, 1977: The Vikings and Chicago went into overtime at Met Stadium tied at 16. The Vikings reached the Bears' 11-yard line. Coach Bud Grant sent in place kicker Fred Cox and Krause, the holder on place kicks. As Cox's right leg moved forward, Krause pulled away the ball, rolled right and flipped the only touchdown pass of his NFL career, to a wide-open tight end Stu Voigt. Grant had called for the fake to avoid the possibility of a blocked kick. "My father always told me, 'Don't bluff on a small pot -- only bluff on the big pots,' " Grant said.
Dec. 2, 1979: Krause was in his second season as the backup free safety to Tom Hannon and in the final days of his 16-year career. He was tied with Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell for the career interception record at 79. With five seconds remaining in the first half at the LA Coliseum, quarterback Vince Ferragamo's pass went off Charlie Young's fingers and Krause intercepted to surpass Tunnell's record. Krause made the interception on the sideline, and his momentum carried him through the area of the Vikings' bench. Commenting on the record setting interception, Dave Huffman stated "I was a rookie that year. Keith Nord and I are standing on the sidelines when Paul runs over us after intercepting the pass that gives him the record. On the plane coming home, Paul leans over to us and says, 'That interception was worth more than both your salaries combined." Later in that same game, Krause had another interception in the Vikings' 27-21 loss, and finished his career with 81 interceptions, a record that still stands today and will unlikely be broken.
It was understood that Krause would be elected to the Hall of Fame. However, the knock on Krause for years was that he wouldn't tackle anybody. And to be truthful, his form as a tackler would not be what you would use in a clinic. But former Vikings coach Bud Grant disagrees with the critics who questioned Krause's tackling ability. "We wanted Krause to act as our center fielder," Grant said. "And because he could read a quarterback as well as any defensive back I've known, he was able to record all of those interceptions. He did what we wanted him to do as well as anybody who I have coached." His longtime coach and personal friend Jerry Burns said, "I never failed to see him make the tackle in an open-field situation on anybody. He was a very instinctive player. Had a great feel for the game. As Bud Grant has said, he personified the term `free safety.' "
But before Paul would enjoy the most celebrated event of his football career, he met with personal tragedy. On Oct. 5, 1995, his wife of 36 years, Pam, was injured when a truck struck the car she was driving. The accident occurred about five miles from the Krause's home. They were to leave that afternoon on a five-week trip to Washington, D.C., to help in preparations for the wedding of the second of their three children, Amanda. One of Pam's last errands was to take their Doberman to the kennel. After Paul received a call informing him that Pam never arrived at the kennel, he went searching and discovered the accident site. He saw the ambulances, wreckers and police cars and Pam's Mercedes in a ditch. By then, she had been transported to the hospital in a helicopter. She suffered a brain stem injury and spent more than five months in a coma. To this day, she has difficulty walking and her speech is slurred. But she is alive and making progress, and those are pretty good reasons to be grateful.
During his induction speech, Krause explained "Pam says the reason I made it this year is that she was able to go along. If I had been voted in either of the last two years, she would not have been able to make the trip." The Krauses live on Brackett's Crossing golf course in Lakeville. The Osborns, former teammate Dave Osborn, are neighbors. Other teammates are nearby as well. The Tingelhoffs (center Mick Tingelhoff) and the Hilgenbergs (linebacker Wally Hilgenberg) live nearby. This commune of old Vikings and their wives offer considerable assistance and encouragement to Pam Krause. They were among the 100-plus family, friends and former teammates in Canton, Ohio, to cheer the arrival of Paul Krause to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Paul's induction was led by Jerry Burns and he paid tribute to Krause's dedication as a husband and father above his deserving right to be in the Hall of Fame.
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