He would make us run so much. Guys would be throwing up. It was literally the worst conditioning I’ve ever done. He was hard on me, and I just remember looking at my dad and like, ‘Why are you doing this? I’m your son.’ But he treated me the same as he treated all the other kids. He wanted me to learn those lessons. —Paul Kruger Jr., on playing for his father
Paul Kruger Sr. leads what you might call Utah's "first family" of football. With three sons and a son-in-law on current NFL rosters, things can get a little hectic in the Kruger house.
“It’s a lot of stress. I played college football, and when my wife and I got married we kind of said early on that our kids aren’t playing football."
When his namesake, Paul, Jr., was in elementary school, however, football became an issue. The boy wanted to play, and the parents still said, "No."
Paul, Sr., who was travelling quite a bit for his job, came home from a trip when his wife, Jennifer, informed him, "I signed Paul, Jr., up for football today. And by the way, you’re the head coach.”
Jennifer smiled and explained, “I knew that my husband was good at it and I figured who better could coach my son than my husband.”
Paul, Sr., ended up coaching all four of his sons through high school, usually bringing the younger boys with to play with older teams.
Being the coach's kid wasn't a picnic. “He would make us run so much. Worst conditioning I’ve ever done,” Paul, Jr., said. ”I just remember looking at my dad and wondering, ‘Why are you doing this? I’m your son!’"
Dave and Joe followed their older brother's footsteps not only to the University of Utah, but into the NFL. Dave followed Paul, Jr., to the Cleveland Browns, whild Joe was a seventh round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. (They join their brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom, who plays for the Oakland Raiders.) Youngest son Mark recently received a call to serve an LDS mission in Australia.
It's no surprise that coaching his boys is what Paul, Sr., considers "the single greatest thing I've ever done in my life." What's intriguing, however, is why he did it.
“It wasn’t (to) coach," he explained. "(It was to) spend time with my kids. I believe that when you’re older in life that you’ll look back and wish that you’d spent more time with those kids.”
Jennifer concurred. “The most priceless things in life aren’t things that you can buy, but they’re relationships and time.”
As Paul, Jr., Dave, Joe and Tony all head out to NFL training camps, and Mark leaves on his mission, there may even be some breathing room to reflect on all the success.
Well, it's about time.