In his four years with the Ravens, former Ute defensive star Paul Kruger has remained a project.
That is, his team has been working with him and waiting for him to play professionally with the potential he showed collegiately at the University of Utah.
Finally, in an AFC wild-card playoff game Sunday, Kruger lived up to expectations.
Kruger tallied 2½ sacks, four tackles and five hits on Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck in a 24-9 defensive victory by Baltimore.
"I was able to show some of the stuff I can do," Kruger said, according the the The Baltimore Sun. "I'm glad it (got) to this point. Because I've been fighting for a couple of years to show my skill. And finally, it's all coming together."
He played with playoff intensity, but the game had even more importance for Kruger. Why? It was teammate Ray Lewis' last home game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Between Lewis, Kruger and the Ravens' other defenders, the Colts failed to find the end zone even once in the loss. Lewis led the Ravens 13 tackles.
According to Jennifer Kruger, the mother of the 270-pound linebacker, Lewis has acted as a mentor for her son since he was drafted by Baltimore in 2009.
"Grateful to Ray Lewis for being such a great mentor and great friend to my son Paul," Jennifer tweeted on Jan. 2.
Despite all of the intensity of the win-or-go-home game situation, combined with the emotional attachment to Lewis' final games, Kruger did not get distracted. He says he'll stay focused going forward, including against Denver on Saturday.
"You can't be going crazy out there and doing things you don't normally do," Kruger said. "Although you do have added incentives and an extra mindset to win, you have to do what you've been trained to do."
Whitney O'Bannon is currently a new media sports intern for the Deseret News.
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