People were pushing me to do a football camp and I felt like this was 10 times more important. It’s really what makes you good at sports, or school, or anything else you do in life. —Paul Kruger
RIVERTON — Cleveland Browns linebacker Paul Kruger is a big believer in his Paragon brotherhood. The former University of Utah star proved it by spending Saturday at Camp Williams overseeing 200 or so participants in his annual leadership academy.
“It’s a code of excellence that we’re trying to create. We’re trying to find people who want to buy into that and who want to live life at an optimum level, and who want to expand their vision and their mind and their body and really achieve great things,” Kruger said. “We try to instill the principles that help you get to that level. That starts at a young age and so we want to get these guys in here and get them focused on the right things.”
Young men (ages 13-18), along with fathers, coaches and guardians, participated in a variety of team-building activities including teaching sessions, a reaction course, an airborne tower and field relays.
“People were pushing me to do a football camp and I felt like this was 10 times more important,” Kruger said. “It’s really what makes you good at sports, or school, or anything else you do in life.”
Kruger added that having people help show him the way has made a big difference in his life. So being able to organize an event like the Paragon Leadership Academy is really special.
The goal, Kruger explained, is to help young men understand the power that is inside of them — helping them to understand the principles it requires to accomplish something great. Certain principles, he explained, are more important than actual skill.
To help get the message across, Kruger has enlisted the help of family and friends. Among those offering assistance at this year’s event were Cleveland Browns wide receiver Miles Austin, Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Joe Kruger. Former NFL players John Madsen and Hans Olsen were also on hand, as was ex-Utah captain Dave Kruger and the 19th Special Forces Group of the Utah National Guard.
“It doesn’t happen without those guys. So to have their support is just No. 1,” Paul Kruger said. “I get a little emotional seeing everybody come and support it, just because it shows who’s behind you and the people that really care. So it’s neat. It’s a big deal.”
Austin, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who signed with the Browns in May after playing for the Dallas Cowboys from 2006-13, was pleased to show his support for Kruger.
“It’s a great thing that he’s doing,” Austin said. “He’s helping these kids out and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Austin noted that Kruger welcomed him to Cleveland with open arms and invited him to play golf with his new teammates the first day or two after joining the Browns.
“He told me about this and I was more than happy to come and help out,” said Austin, whose only previous trip to Utah was a ski trip to Park City.
Both Austin and Kruger are looking forward to the opening of camp on July 25. Cleveland has become a hot spot of sorts with rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel joining the Browns and LeBron James rejoining the NBA’s Cavaliers.
“I just got there,” Miles said. “So I’m just getting settled in and excited for the season to start up.”
Kruger, meanwhile, is preparing for his second season with Cleveland — noting that he liked the city before the recent excitement.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m super pumped to be there and ready to get going.”
As for the addition of “Johnny Football,” Kruger thinks it’s a good thing for the Browns.
“It brings some attention, some excitement and I think guys are getting pumped up and ready to go,” Kruger said.
Despite losing 10 of their final 11 games (including the last seven in a row) in 2013, Kruger is confident the Browns will improve on their 4-12 record.
“It just takes a bunch of guys who want to win and we’ve got that,” he said.