Thanks to the sacrifices of Jennifer Kruger, family is the ultimate team sport for famous football family

Published: Saturday, May 10 2014 2:05 p.m. MDT

Jennifer Kruger, mother of four boys and two girls, poses with memorabilia from her kids at her home in Orem Thursday, May 8, 2014. Three of the boys played football for the University of Utah and two play in the NFL.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OREM — When Jennifer Kruger closes her eyes and considers her most cherished moments as a mother, she doesn’t see her oldest son, Paul, tackling San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl.

“Sports are always there, so it’s probably a sports moment,” she said, choking with emotion as she tries to describe her favorite experiences as a mom. “But the memories aren’t the ones people would know. It’s a child, all the children, and yeah, they probably have something to do with sports, but they’re hard times, quiet times, trying to figure something out, trying to overcome a problem, in a hospital room, pulled over in a car talking through things.”

As the mother of six athletic children, including three sons who’ve played at the University of Utah and in the NFL, Kruger has logged some spectacular experiences, as well as significant time, in bleachers and ballparks.

But it isn’t the sound of a packed stadium that makes her heart swell with pride.

It is, instead, the sound of a diesel truck pulling up in front of her Orem home, knowing the banter of boys, her boys, will soon fill her house.

It’s the sound of her daughter, Erica, calling out to her when she returns from school each day. It’s the sound of her grandkids giggling as they run into her house eagerly searching for their Grammy.

“Those are the precious times,” she said, wiping away tears. “And I’ve had some awesome experiences. I’ve met some world-famous athletes. But the most treasured moments to me are the quieter ones.”

She cannot stop the tears as she describes the very ordinary moments that make her feel more gratitude than she can express.

Her love for her family is overwhelming. It has driven, even defined, her life. Being a mom isn’t something she does — it’s who Jennifer Kruger is.

“When I think of the word mother, I think my mother describes the perfect mother,” said Jessica Kruger Bergstrom. “I’m 26 and I still, even as a married person, come to my mother for anything and everything. … Her support for her children and her love is completely unwavering.”

Jennifer Kruger acknowledges that hers is not a path everyone might choose.

But since the time she married Paul Kruger Sr. in the Salt Lake Temple in 1985, she’s devoted herself to building the kind of home that is both a foundation for a fearless life and a shelter in any storm.

Sitting in her living room with her two daughters and granddaughter, Kruger likens her philosophy on motherhood to how women have had to fight to be taken seriously in their chosen professions. They have to find their place of power, their confidence, their purpose, in order to be successful.

“I have always felt that way about being a mother,” she said. “People in the world sometimes trivialize being a mother, and particularly those who choose staying home to raise their kids. I had six kids. I decided that’s my career, and I’ve been blessed enough that I haven’t had to work outside the home. I respect and admire women who do both.”

But at the same time, she’s unspeakably grateful that she didn’t have to find a way to balance her own career with her desire to be a mom. She and her husband started their family when he was still playing college football, first at Ricks College and then at Oregon State.

Their oldest son, Paul Jr., was born in 1986, followed by Jessica in 1987.

She said there were difficulties being married to a student-athlete with two small children, but there were far more joys.

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