Work Portfolio
Monday, November 30, 2009
Rookie Kruger, who nearly died two years ago, saves the day for Ravens

Want a reason to cheer despite the Dolphins' depressing loss to the Bills? Want to hear about a player who makes a fight for the playoffs seem trivial, especially considering the fight for his life less than two years ago?

Check this out.

Before Sunday night, when he was called upon to start in place of an injured Terrell Suggs, Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger previously saw minimal action in only two other games. During overtime, a big night became even bigger.

Kruger, a rookie from Utah, vaulted onto the NFL scene with an interception during overtime that set up Baltimore for a huge win against the Steelers. Now, for the reason to cheer him on.

The story goes like this: In the January following a huge freshman season at Utah, Kruger was making a one-block walk toward his car, joined by his brother and sister, along with fellow Utah teammate Greg Newman.

Wrong place. Wrong time.

A car rolled past at a slow speed. The passengers, who are still unknown to this day but were believed to be members of a gang, began hurling random obscenities at the group. When Newman hurled a snowball at the car in response, things got ugly.

Newman never could have anticipated the response from the strangers. Another car rolled up, and all of the passengers exited. Kruger tried to keep the peace – until someone spit in the face of Newman.

By the time it was over, Kruger’s brother had been punched with brass knuckles; blood pouring from his face. Newman took a screwdiver in his side. And Kruger was stabbed in the ribs and the abdomen with a knife.

After a four-hour surgical procedure, doctors found a damaged artery and a collapsed lung, among other injuries. Kruger, who already had one of his kidneys and his spleen removed following an auto accident, was facing life-threatening injuries.

He’d have his stomach stapled shut. The recovery was long and grueling, causing the once-intimidating Kruger to lose 20 pounds of muscle. For the next eight months, he’d rehabilitate his body in an effort to try to get back onto the field.

Feel like fast forwarding? No problem. The following season, he’d have 7.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles – and a season good enough to cause pro scouts to provide raving feedback.

Only 15 months after being stabbed in the stomach, Kruger was selected in the second round of the 2009 draft. Less than two years after that day, when a run-in with the wrong people nearly ended his football career and possibly his life, Kruger arrived on the NFL scene with a huge, game-changing interception.

Kruger, who attended Utah with Dolphins second-round draft pick Sean Smith and is represented by South Florida-based agent David Canter, surely has a reason to celebrate tonight.

The dude is alive. And doing well.