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Intercepting NFL's highest honor
Krause remembered for roaming in football's center field
Posted: Saturday August 01, 1998 12:20 PM
CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- When Paul Krause was a hot prospect as an outfielder in college, he didn't know he also was honing the skills that would get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
During his lengthy career in the NFL, Krause became the first player to turn center field into a football position.
"There are definite similarities," Krause said. "Basically, when a center fielder gets the ball, he calls everybody else off. He's also the last person back there. In football, if the ball gets past you or they throw over you, it's a touchdown."
Krause redefined and refined the free safety position during 16 seasons with the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings. On Saturday, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Anthony Munoz, Mike Singletary, Dwight Stephenson and Tommy McDonald.
Krause always liked baseball better than football. After his first year of varsity baseball at Iowa in 1962, 12 major league teams contacted him with offers as high as $50,000. He contemplated signing a bonus 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."
The next fall in a football game against Michigan, Krause separated a shoulder. He always had a strong arm, but after the injury he wasn't able to throw with the same velocity. The baseball offers dried up, so he switched his focus to football.
He intercepted 12 passes in his final two seasons with Iowa, then was taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the Redskins. His spectacular rookie season included a league-high 12 interceptions and he was selected All-NFL and to the Pro Bowl.
"I understood in a split second what the offense was trying to do to the defense," he said. "I understood the flow of the linebackers, saw the direction the blockers were going and where the backs were headed -- everything was in front of me the whole time. I think I was a particularly good student of the game."
Krause relied on reaction rather than taking chances.
"As a free safety, it takes a different type of approach," he said. "You had to see everything and not make a big mistake because if you do, it's a touchdown."
Krause had the perfect profile to play the position. First, he was a gifted athlete at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Second, he played on instinct and intelligence, like a poker player never tipping his hand.
"I'm still a laid-back person," said Krause, 56, a father of three who is a land-developer and runs a golf course in Elk River, Minnesota. "I didn't get excited."
After four glittering years, 28 interceptions and two All-NFL seasons with the Redskins, he was dealt to the Vikings because an assistant coach thought he should rush the line and make jarring stops.
"But that wasn't the way I played," he said.
In Minnesota, he fit in perfectly with Bud Grant's defensive philosophy. The Vikings had a fearsome defensive line featuring Carl Eller, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Jim Marshall -- the perfect complement to a free safety who didn't make mistakes.
Four times the Vikings went to the Super Bowl, forming one of the dominant NFL teams of the 1960s and '70s. Krause had 81 career interceptions, more than anyone else.
As happy as he is with the way things turned out, this wasn't the way he originally had it planned.
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