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ASK DEFENSIVE TACKLE DAVE KRUGER WHAT HE DID TO MAINTAIN HIS FORM DURING THE off-season, and he becomes a salesman. "We have a family product that's been extremely helpful in gaining weight and sheer muscle mass," says Kruger, 22, a four-year Utes starter. "It's protein powder with superfood that we call ManFeed." Moreover, the family has produced its own poster boys for the all-natural supplement made from chia, soy and white rice: three Utah starting linemen since 2007. Dave's younger brother Joe is a linemate at defensive end, and eldest brother Paul, who started every game of the Utes' perfect 2008 season, now plays for the Ravens.
There's more. A fourth brother, Mark, is the starting center at Pleasant Grove (Utah) High. And brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom, who wed their sister Jessica in '09, is the stellar Utes guard who was drafted by the Raiders in April.
Dave says his teammates are hooked on ManFeed, which has also made its way into the locker rooms at Utah State, Weber State and even BYU. ("We may have poisoned [that shipment] a little bit," he jokes.)
But the real proof is in the padding. Dave and Joe showed up to spring ball packing an extra 15 pounds of muscle each to their already formidable frames. (Dave is 6' 5" and now 300 pounds; Joe, 6' 7" and 280.) Dave says the bigger and stronger offensive linemen they encountered in last year's move from the Mountain West to a BCS conference prompted the two brothers to bulk up. But the extra off-season push was also a familywide objective.
"Mark is going into his senior season in high school, I'm a senior in college and this is Paul's last contract year in the NFL," Kruger says. "Our parents and coaches are grinding on us hard, and even the brothers are sitting down and discussing what we can do to exceed our limits. This is the biggest year of our lives."
It's shaping up to be Dave's most productive, as he and Joe will line up alongside Lott Trophy contender Star Lotulelei to compose what many anticipate will be an even scarier defensive line than last year's, when Utah had the conference's lowest opponent scoring percentage in red zone situations (74.3%).
It helped (and maybe was no coincidence) that the D-line was the Utes' healthiest group on the field, while other areas were hit hard by injury. Then, two weeks before Utah was scheduled to face off with Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, a freak accident with Bergstrom during a pregame warmup abruptly ended their luck.
"My brother-in-law brushed by me on a pass rush or something, and my knee brushed his knee brace. It was just a little cut, a scrape. That's all it took," he says.
One week later a feverish Kruger had just sweated his way through a TV interview when he turned to a coach and asked to be taken to the hospital. What started as a scrape had morphed into a staph infection that kept him in the hospital for four days with a painfully swollen leg and the sinking realization that the Sun Bowl would be the first game in his Utes career that he would experience from the sideline.
How badly did Bergstrom feel? "You know, I don't even know if Tony knows," says Kruger with a laugh. He prefers to point their conversations toward the future, as Kruger hopes to follow his brother and his brother-in-law into the pros. "I compare myself to the NFL draft picks and figure out how to up my draft stock," says Kruger.