It’s been said that playing defensive back is akin to playing on an island. That island can be a lonely place.
One mistake from those on the “island” will hurt the team and be witnessed by countless viewers.
Some members of the secondary thrive in this position while others are ill-suited.
One player who responded well to the pressure was Paul Krause.
Krause was a 16 year veteran of the NFL.
His presence in the secondary meant that opponents had to know his whereabouts at all times.
From the very beginning of his pro career, Krause was a natural.
He would become arguably the greatest defensive back in league history, setting a mark that is unlikely to be reached.
This is the story of Paul Krause.
Happy Birthday to Hall of Famer and #VikingsLegend Paul Krause! pic.twitter.com/im3ROuA90u
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) February 20, 2014
Early Life in Michigan
Paul James Krause was born on February 19, 1942, in Flint, Michigan.
By the time he was a student at Bendle High School in Burton, Michigan, it was obvious Krause had outstanding athletic prowess.
He earned 14 letters in football, basketball, baseball, and track.
As great as Krause was at football, he once scored a program-record 54 points in a basketball game.
He also had school records in points scored in football as well as the pole vault and high jump.
Krause’s athletic ability brought recognition to a school that had never experienced it before.
By the time he graduated, Krause received All-American status in football, baseball, and track.
Additionally, Krause was one of the few student-athletes in Bendle High history to receive a college scholarship.
Iowa Hawkeye Legend
It’s one thing to play multiple sports in high school.
However, it’s very rare for a college athlete to play multiple sports.
The amount of practice and preparation necessary to play more than one sport (and maintain the grades necessary to stay eligible) can be overwhelming.
That wasn’t the case for Krause.
He arrived at the University of Iowa intending to play both football and baseball.
Here's Paul Krause from his Iowa playing days: pic.twitter.com/i92usFTmeB
— Marc Morehouse (@marcmorehouse) November 20, 2014
Through his first two seasons in Iowa City, Krause did so with aplomb.
As a baseball player, Krause was named an All-American after his sophomore season.
He was drafted into the major leagues but turned down the offer so he could play football.
Krause’s future in professional baseball ended when he injured his shoulder during the 1962 football season.
Meanwhile, Krause was playing two positions on the gridiron.
As a defensive back and receiver, opponents couldn’t keep up with him.
The Hawkeyes weren’t a good team during Krause’s time in Iowa City.
However, he still starred with 42 total receptions for 718 yards and seven touchdowns from 1961-1963.
See our list of the greatest Iowa Hawkeyes football players of all-time. #1 is Paul Krause. https://t.co/Bp2EudBXWU…#CollegeFootball #Iowa #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/YPa7mH0CiT
— AinsworthSports.com (@AinsworthSports) October 19, 2019
Krause also had 263 total rushing yards and a score in spot duty as a running back.
His play during his senior year led to Krause being selected for the East-West Shrine game, the Coaches’ All-American game and the College All-Star game.
Immediate Impact as a Pro
Krause was equally adept on both sides of the ball while playing for the Hawkeyes.
However, he was lauded more for his prowess as a defensive back.
In the 1964 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Krause in the second round to add depth to their secondary.
Coming out of training camp, it was clear Krause was destined to be a starter. He did not disappoint.
While the Redskins were suffering through a 6-8 season, Krause was picking off passes left and right.
Paul Krause was an All-Pro as a rookie with #WashingtonFootball pic.twitter.com/vF6cWCrJzr
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) July 26, 2021
By the end of his rookie year, he had hauled in no less than 12 interceptions (with one returned for a touchdown), including picks in seven consecutive games.
Krause’s interception total led the NFL that year and he was named to his first Pro Bowl as well as being named a First-team All-Pro.
Alas, he just missed out on the Rookie of the Year award, which went to teammate Charley Taylor.
Despite Success, Krause is Traded
For the next three years, Krause was a dependable backstop for Washington.
From 1965-1967, the Redskins never won more than seven games, but Krause did his best to shut down opponents.
During that span, he picked off a total of 16 passes and even returned a fumble for a score in 1965.
Despite his stellar play, Washington went looking for linebacker help before the 1968 season.
In a rather shocking move, the team traded Krause to the Minnesota Vikings for linebacker Marlin McKeever and a seventh-round selection in the ‘68 draft.
Krause Joins a Sleeping Giant
He didn’t know it right away, but Krause came to Minnesota at the perfect time.
The year before he arrived in Minnesota, the Vikings had hired coach Bud Grant.
In Grant’s first year with the club, the Vikings finished a woeful 3-8-3.
However, the seeds of success were starting to show.
Beginning in 1961, Minnesota began collecting a number of defensive players that would eventually form one of the most formidable units in NFL history.
By the time Krause arrived in 1968, the Vikings defensive line boasted Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Alan Page.
Gary Larsen and Doug Sutherland would also contribute to the line.
The unit would eventually be named the Purple People Eaters.
Purple People Eaters 😈#tbt pic.twitter.com/hpNfQa7jvz
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 19, 2019
Minnesota didn’t neglect the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Fran Tarkenton would eventually hand off to running back Chuck Foreman and pass to the likes of Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White.
In 1968, Krause helped turn around Minnesota’s future by pulling in seven interceptions.
The Vikings went 8-6 and made their first postseason, losing to the Baltimore Colts 24-14 in the Conference Playoffs.
Super Bowl Highs and Lows
The turnaround was quick for Minnesota.
In 1969, the Vikings hammered opponents and finished the regular season 12-2.
Krause had five interceptions including a pick-six and would be named to his third Pro Bowl after the year.
Paul Krause against the Packers. #vikings pic.twitter.com/9haKpWgTdA
— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) December 22, 2016
In their second ever postseason, Minnesota narrowly defeated the Rams 23-20 in the Conference Round, then crushed Cleveland 27-7 in the NFL Championship.
Remarkably, in just their ninth year of existence, the Vikings were in the Super Bowl.
During Super Bowl IV against the Kansas City Chiefs, Krause would record an interception.
However, not even the Vikings vaunted defense could help contain a powerful Kansas City offense.
At halftime, Minnesota was already in the hole, 16-0. By the final whistle, the score was 23-7 in favor of the Chiefs.
In 1970 and ‘71, the Vikings posted 12 and 11 win seasons respectively only to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Then, in 1972, the Vikings suffered a 7-7 season.
Krause did his best to help, recording six interceptions each year from ‘70-’72. He also had another pick-six during the 1972 season.
Minnesota got back on track in 1973, when the team lost only two games and beat Washington and Dallas in the first two rounds.
However, they ran into a buzz saw in Super Bowl VIII and fell to the Miami Dolphins 24-7.
More Super Bowl Disappointment
After picking off four passes in 1973, Krause added two more in 1974.
The Vikings went 10-4, beat the Cardinals and Rams in the Divisional and Conference Rounds, and returned to the title game for the second straight year.
In Super Bowl IX, Krause had a fumble recovery, but the Vikings faltered again.
This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers stole Minnesota’s title hopes with a 16-6 victory.
Perhaps the most illustrative photo to describe the fans emotions of Vikings 4 Super Bowl losses (this was taken at Super Bowl VIII) pic.twitter.com/mVC7qcBUtV
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) February 9, 2019
In 1975, both Krause and the Vikings were talented enough to return to the postseason.
While the team went 12-2, Krause was having a monster year.
That season, he picked off 10 passes (second most in his career) for a league best 201 return yards.
His stats garnered Krause his eighth Pro Bowl and third First-team All-Pro nod.
Unfortunately, the good times ended when the Cowboys upended Minnesota 17-14 in the Divisional Playoffs.
The following year, the Vikings returned to their fourth Super Bowl.
An 11-2-1 regular season led to victories over the Redskins and Rams in the postseason.
Then, to the consternation of Minnesota fans everywhere, the team fell for the fourth consecutive time in the biggest game of the year.
By halftime of Super Bowl XI, the Oakland Raiders were cruising 16-0.
They would continue thrashing the Vikings in the second half and run away with it 32-14.
The Beginning of the End
By 1976, Krause’s stats were beginning to tail off, although he was still the heart of Minnesota’s secondary.
During the Vikings’ run to Super Bowl XI in ‘76, Krause picked off only two passes.
1977 was more of the same with Krause intercepting two more passes.
By the end of the season, Krause was well aware that he was closing in on Emlen Tunnell’s all-time career interception mark of 79.
His personal career total at the end of the ‘77 season was 78.
Knowing he had never intercepted less than two passes during any of his pro seasons, Krause returned in 1978 to get the record.
However, he started in only two games and did not record a single pick the entire year.
Krause wanted to go out on a high note and came back for one more year in 1979.
As Minnesota missed the playoffs for the first time since 1972 with a 7-9 record, Krause got his record.
He started eight games in his final year and, on December 2, 1979, Krause passed Tunnell with his 80th interception.
Mentioned yesterday, here is HOF Safety Paul Krause's 80th NFL INT, followed by his 81st and final. This record literally will never be broken. No one active is even close. And he did it all wearing a permed-toupee under than helmet!! History made on Dec 2, 1979. #vikings pic.twitter.com/nF6AeqgNk9
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) August 7, 2019
He would also snag his 81st, and final, pick the same day.
Once the 1979 season concluded, Krause hung up his cleats.
In 16 seasons (in which he only missed two games), he intercepted 81 passes, returned three picks for touchdowns, recovered 19 fumbles, returned two for scores, and had two sacks.
Krause was an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-team All-Pro, four-time Second-team All-Pro, NFL interception leader in 1964, and appeared in four Super Bowls.
He would later be named to the Vikings Ring of Honor, one of the 50 greatest Vikings in team history, and to the Vikings’ 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams.
Additionally, Krause would be named to the Redskins 70th Anniversary Team.
Krause’s career interception mark of 81 has yet to be broken.
Records are meant to be broken.
Well, except for Paul Krause's 81 career interceptions. pic.twitter.com/s59b0b8he6
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) February 19, 2021
Former NFL All-Pro Rod Woodson came closest when he retired after 2003 with 71 interceptions.
In 1998, Krause was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His bio for the Hall perfectly sums up his career.
“I’m plain and simple the safety man, the guy who has to stop the play when the others don’t, and that’s the way I like it.”
After his playing days were over, Krause was elected to the Board of County Commissioners for Dakota County, Minnesota where he served 20 years.
He also worked in real estate and insurance and owns several restaurants.
Krause is married with three children and will turn 80 years young in February.
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