In connection with the JcPenney/Van Heusen fan debate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. . .which you can still vote on over on the right-hand side of the page or by going to their website. . .we here at The Daily Norseman got the opportunity to interview a true Minnesota Vikings' legend, Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause. Krause is still the National Football League's all-time leader in interceptions with 81, and might be the best safety to ever strap on a helmet at the NFL level. Unfortunately, neither Anthony, Eric, or I could interview him, but Ted Glover volunteered to step up and conduct the interview for us. (We were hoping to get an interview with former kicker Jan Stenerud as well, but that, unfortunately, fell through.)
So, here is the interview with Paul Krause. It's a long one, so sit back, grab a beverage, and take it all in. And another huge thanks to Ted for filling the void here and ensuring that we didn't lose this opportunity.
Daily Norseman: Okay, let’s get the important stuff out of the way. Your alma mater, the University of Iowa, is 8-0 and in the hunt for the Big 10 championship and the BCS National Championship game. Are they gonna win it all?
Paul Krause: I don’t know if they’re going to win it or not, but I’m rooting for them to. I think it would be great for the Hawkeyes. They’ve had some tough luck lately, and it would be great if they could jump up in the BCS standings and win the BCS championship.
DN: A lot of Viking fans don’t remember that you were originally drafted by and played for the Washington Redskins. How was it that a guy that was a two time Pro Bowler and league leader in interceptions for three out of his first four years got traded?
PK: Otto Graham was the head coach, and we had a defensive backfield coach by the name of Ed Hughes, and although I had three great years, he just didn’t like the way I played. I remember (Hall of Fame Linebacker and teammate) Sam Huff telling them "let me call the defense, let Krause play his game because nobody can beat us deep", but he just didn’t like how I played, so they traded me. I wasn’t going to change how I played, Hughes was a defensive back when he played, and he must’ve thought he knew how to play the game.
DN: Well, it was a great trade for the Vikings, because you formed one of the great secondaries in Viking history, along with Nate Wright and Bobby Bryant. I grew up during the heyday of the Purple People Eaters, and that secondary was an integral part of that group. What’s your fondest memory of that era?
PK: My best memory of that era is the friendship we had on the football team; we were like family, a real close family. We’re all still very good friends today, and we care about each other. And that’s the biggest thing that really impresses me about those Viking football teams from back then. And we had some great athletes. Still, a few great athletes don’t make the whole team, and we were a real, real close team.
DN: The Purple People Eaters were known for tough defense and creating turnovers. Bud Grant has said about you "(Krause’s) ability to make a big play was almost constant. He could turn a game around for us". What made you and that defense so good at that?
PK: You know, that’s hard to say. Bud (Grant) and the staff were sticklers for everybody doing their job. If all eleven guys did their job on every play, then we would have success. But on top of that, the guys that had the ability to make the big plays, that was the dessert, you know? When you look at the guys that are in the Hall of Fame, those were guys that could turn a team around; they were game changers. I don’t know why I came up with so many interceptions. I guess it was just God given ability, and I knew where the ball was going a lot of times.
DN: One last question about those days, and it’s about Met Stadium. One of the neat things I loved as a kid was that both teams were on the same sideline. Was there a lot of back and forth with the opponent, since you guys were so close together?
PK: Oh yeah, there was a lot of back and forth, especially when it got real cold (laughing). Funny thing is, they were laughing at us, because Bud wouldn’t let us have heaters, and they were standing in front of the heaters all of the time. Bud would walk up to us or by us and say "look at those guys, they care more about coming off the field and getting in front of the heater than they do about the football game." And that basically is the truth; they were more worried about getting warm than they were about winning the football game.
DN: And you guys sure had the last laugh most of the time when the clock finally struck 0:00.
PK: (Laughing) That’s for sure.
DN: You had to wait 20 years for the Hall of Fame after retiring the all time leader in interceptions. Fran Tarkenton had to wait several years after retiring, and he held all major passing records when he hung it up. Carl Eller and Alan Page had to wait as well. Jim Marshall and Mick Tingelhoff are still waiting. Do you feel that the Vikings players from that era were punished, if that’s a good word to use, for not winning it all? (Author’s Note: Krause said he thought the period of time between retirement and HOF induction was only 13 years. According to pro-football-reference.com, Krause retired in 1979 and was inducted in 1998).
PK: Absolutely. Absolutely I feel that way. If you don’t win the Super Bowl, it’s going to be tougher for you to get into the Hall of Fame, and the Super Bowl has nothing to do with how you played over a 14 or 15 year career in the NFL, and it has nothing to do with the statistics or anything else. If you’re not on a Super Bowl (winning) team, you’ll have a tougher time getting in, and there’s no reason for it. Guys that should get to the Hall of Fame are guys that can change a game, excel, and make big plays. There’s guys that have played 10 years and never made a big play, and you have other guys that do it all the time, and those are the guys that should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll also say this: Jim Marshall and Mick Tingelhoff definitely deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Marshall set the record for consecutive games played until it was broken by Favre, and Tingelhoff holds the record for most (consecutive) games played by an offensive lineman. These guys were great stalwarts of the Minnesota Viking football team.
(Author’s note: Here’s Tingelhoff’s resume from SI.com writer Peter King in a Training camp article about the Vikings from August 5, 2005: "He started the first preseason game, the first regular-season game, and then every single pre-, regular- and post-season game in Vikings history for the next 17 years. He made more all-pro teams than any center of all time, including the two centers from his era, Jim Langer and Jim Otto, who are in the Hall.
I am befuddled. He snapped for punts and kicks for 17 years. He played through six finger dislocations, a fully torn calf muscle, a separated shoulder --a nd, remarkably, no broken leg or arm bones and no torn knee ligaments. That he knows of, anyway. There were FULL SEASONS when he did not miss a single play. the Vikings went to four Super Bowls with him anchoring the offensive line.")
DN: What was your reaction when you got the call saying you’d made the Hall of Fame?
PK: I think I was relieved, (especially) with the statistics that I had, and the way I played the game. And now that I’ve been out of the game for so long, close to 30 years, no one’s even come close to my (interception) record yet. To do something that nobody else has ever done before, and still hasn’t after 30 years, it’s a pretty good honor for me.
DN: This weekend, you’ll be participating in a panel discussion with fellow hall of famers Bart Starr and Jan Stenerud about current HOF candidates, giving you a chance to interact with fans. This is being sponsored by Van Heusen and JC Penney as part of their fan forum debate for the Hall of Fame. Could you tell us a little more about this weekend?
PK: There’s going to be some question and answer sessions about different players. Why is this guy in, why isn’t that guy in? Who do we think should go in, and like I said earlier,the criteria I have is someone that can change a game. There are a lot of football players that were very good football players, and I don’t know if they should be in the Hall of Fame or not. But guys that could really change a game and make a difference, I think they should be in the Hall of Fame.
DN: Which former Viking players do you think should make the Hall of Fame, either from your era or more recently retired players You’ve already mentioned Tingelhoff and Marshall, are there any others?
PK: John Randle, he was a guy that used to be able to change the game. Cris Carter, he could change the game as well. He made a lot of big plays for the Vikings. Those are two guys I definitely think should be in the Hall of Fame.
DN: If Paul Krause had the only vote for the 2010 Hall of Fame Class, he would vote for who?
PK: Oh boy, you’re putting me on the spot, but I think Jerry Rice is in there, Emmitt Smith from Dallas, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say Paul Tagliabue, because he built the NFL to what it is right now. He did a great job for the NFL and the league wouldn’t be near what it is today without his guidance, and I usually don’t recommend guys that didn’t play. Then there’s Ray Guy, probably the best punter to ever come in the league. There’s only one kicker in the Hall of Fame (Jan Stenerud) and I don’t know if I’ll recommend Ray Guy, but I’ll tell you this: if he’s voted in, I sure wouldn’t say he doesn’t deserve it. He was one of the first punters that really changed the game, and if you look at his all-time punting average, it’s still way up there. I think Floyd Little is up this year. I think he’s very good, but I don’t know if Floyd Little has done what an Emmitt Thomas has done. Jerry Kramer, from the senior’s list, the offensive guard from the Green Bay Packers, he’s a very, very good football player, and if he gets in, I’ll welcome him. I don’t have the list of names in front of me, but the guys that were real game changers are the guys I’m interested in. There’s also some placekickers coming up for a vote, and I don’t know who I’d vote for there.
DN: We talked about you being in Green Bay this weekend and the obvious story is Brett Favre going back to Lambeau Field. Your old teammate Fran Tarkenton has been pretty critical of Brett Favre joining the Vikings, yet some former Packer legends along with former Viking players don’t seem too upset about it. What’s your reaction to Favre playing for the Packers arch rival, and could you have seen a player of Favre’s caliber going to play for their arch rival in your era?
PK: When the Favre talk first started I thought he’d be great for the Vikings. The Packers don’t want him to go to the Vikings, so he goes to the Jets, has a pretty good first half of the year, then he hurts himself, then says he’s going to retire. But you know something? If a guy can continue to do what he likes to do for as long as he wants to, why not? I love it that he’s in Minnesota. He’s doing some things that Fran Tarkenton might wish he could have done until he was 40 years old. And I’m saying that Favre can do it at age 40, just look at what he’s doing. Whether it’s football, or being an attorney, or a medical doctor, who says they have to retire at 38, or 40, or whenever? Work as long as you want to work, and if someone doesn’t like it, big deal. This guy can still produce, and I’m all for it.
DN: What’s your opinion of the Vikings so far this year?
PK: I don’t sit and watch every play, but from what I’ve seen I don’t like their consistency. Two weeks ago against Baltimore they got way up and then laid an egg late in the football game. They can’t take a vacation in the third or fourth quarter, yet they do some great things. They take the ball away on defense, the offense scores a lot of touchdowns, and I’d make sure (Adrian) Peterson touches the ball out of the backfield at least 20 times a game. Last week against Pittsburgh, I think both teams wanted the game, but they also both looked they wanted to give it away, and neither team was really consistent. The Vikes had a chance to win it, but they screwed up; they just didn’t catch the ball. Those are the things you have to do; that’s your job, no one else’s. Favre put it right where you’re supposed to, and doggone it, you gotta catch it, because the rest of the team is counting on you.
DN: Who are some of the players you admire today, from any team, and why?
PK: I like Peyton Manning from Indianapolis. He is such a good quarterback, and he knows the game. He’s a very good student of the game, and he reminds me of Johnny Unitas more than anybody. Defensively, I like what (head coach Mike) Singletary is doing out in San Francisco. He’s a very, very, intense guy, and I respect Mike Singletary a lot. I like Jared Allen. He goes out and plays 100% every play. I have yet to see him take a break, and when he’s out there, he’s playing hard. Steve Hutchinson is another good player on the Vikings.
The Vikings have some great personnel. When Favre came in, you could just see the team mold together more. I look at how Favre is leading the Viking offense and there’s no way that he is not at the controls.
I want to extend my sincere thanks to the staff of The Daily Norseman and to Viking great Paul Krause. Mr. Krause was one of my childhood idols, and this was something that I won’t soon forget.