Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Day I Launched Brett Favre's Career

A pivotal Green Bay Packers game is on the NFL Network channel right now. It is the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept 20, 1992. It is the game where Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majikowski got hurt and Brett Favre came in to relieve him...and won it, of course. What is significant about this game is that I realized something that I never knew...that I had a significant role in launching Brett Favre's football career.

You see, there was this kid that we played high school football against named Tim Krumrie from Mondovi, Wisconsin. He was a sophomore when we were juniors. Mondovi came to my high school that year to take on our mighty Chieftains. Of course we beat the crap out of them and they went on to make the playoffs while we went undefeated and we did not make the playoffs. Plus they were in a higher division that we were...go figure.

Well I remember Tim Krumrie. I was the backup kicker that year for kickoffs. Terry Kindschy was the first-string kicker. (Of course Mark Rogness kicked extra-points and field goals.) Anyway, Kindschy got banged up during the game at one point and was out for awhile. We scored and then were going to kickoff. Coach Duane Matye ('The Duke') came and found me comfortably asleep, probably, on the bench, under the bleachers, or maybe chatting with the opposing team's cheerleaders....who knows. I know that I had not expected to play unless quarterback Jeff Olson was going to get himself hurt, which was unlikely, or the guy who kicked off got hurt which also was unlikely, but now was a reality.

So Duke tells me to get in there and do the kickoff. Alright, I will. What he failed to mention, however, and which should have been included in the interests of fair disclosure, and out of respect for humanity, was that on Mondovi's kickoff return team, the responsibility of blocking the kicker fell on one large beast of a human being named Tim Krumrie, who out-weighed me by an easy 60, well, more like 100 lbs.

So I get out there on to the field and set the ball up just like I had countless times on Saturday mornings after football games while I was growing up. During those times, however, it had always played out much differently. I would imagine the crowds, the intensity of the game and all that was at stake; all, of course, just in the mind of a 4th grade boy, or whatever. I never saw it playing out like it actually did.

So where was I? Oh, yes, the kickoff against Mondovi (you will understand my memory lapse in a moment...) Ya, I get out there, hear the ref's whistle and get ready for my first kickoff in a varsity game. I take off toward the ball, sync up my steps and plant my foot into the ball. It was a decent enough kick; less than a Mark Rogness or Greg Laufenberg might have done, but a respectable high school kickoff, nonetheless. So I figured my job was about done. Surely Hugh Leasum, Brian Matye or someone else would chase down the ball carrier and my role was almost done. So I hustle down the field, a few steps behind everybody else.

It never crossed my mind that there would be one person who was designated to take out the kicker; I never thought about that. But then it began to dawn on me, as I slowly started to realize that there was a person in front of me who seemed to be adjusting his body position and movement to track exactly where I was headed. I began to get a hint that he was targeting me. Oh, alright, someone is trying to get a bead on me. No problem, I'll just angle away from him a little and let him try to pick someone else up. My plans did not work. The more I adjusted, the more the blocker adjusted. And then before you know it, I was getting very close to this person.

The final seconds are a bit of a blur...or is a better description the term, 'nightmare'? By the time I realized that there was going to be a collision, it was too late to do anything about it. The last thing I remember there was this hulk of a mountain positioned there in a textbook squared-up blocking position. I can still see Tim Krumrie's head , intense eyes, mouth and mouth-guard behind that bird-cage facemask as his forearms with clenched fists drew in and up and his body came forward towards me. What happened next can only be described as pure violence. There was crushing physical contact. I felt like I had ran headlong into an oncoming car. I am sure that my feet left the earth.

Forearms and elbows and shoulders met my facemask and began to push it back into my face. Of course once it all made contact with my face in a twisting, backward movement, my two-bar facemask and rotating helmet then came in contact with my nice black athletic glasses. The frames on those glasses, though durable, are not nearly as soft and rubbery as they might have been hailed to be back in the day. No. In fact, they were very, very hard. I did not know at the time that they were digging into my eyebrow, or that the blood would be starting to flow from the measure of flesh that Tim Krumrie was extracting from my body for violating his personal personal space by attempting to pass through it.

You can understand my surprise, though. Because for all those years when I had been a kid and had gone to the hallowed high school football field on crisp, fall Saturday mornings after the glorious gladiator matches the night before (you see, I lived right across the street from said field) and set up kickoffs in imaginary football games, I had mistakenly believed that this field was mine; ours, the mighty Chieftains'. But no, this part of the field actually belonged to the human wall, Tim Krumrie from Mondovi. Who'd have thought that? Who could have known?

So where was I again...? Oh, yes, I was in mid-air, my head and body having been violently launched due west when I was supposed to be going east. When I landed on my back, a considerable distance behind the place where Krumrie had initiated his assault on the kicker, I do not remember if I was actually looking out the ear-hole of my helmet or not, though it was probable, because my glasses were twisted somewhere up between the top of my head and the upper-inside of my helmet and blood was running into my eyes and I could not see a thing. I also don't remember if I called for my mommy, but that is likely as well.

What I do remember is that Tim Krumrie's wrath had not been yet appeased and I caught a tiny glimpse of him as he stood there above me, waiting for me to get back up; he was probably foaming at the mouth and uttering gutteral, in-human noises. Neither do I remember if his fangs were protruding through his mouthguard, but I am pretty sure that they were. At the moment, though, I was not particularly interested in getting back up. No, my only interest was in simply staying alive. It never crossed my mind to stand back up and go make a tackle; Tim Krumrie had removed that, and most everything else, from my consciousness.

Well, I don't know who made the tackle on that play, all I remember was who had made one particular block on one particular kicker. After the play was over, I somehow found my way over to the sideline, though it was not by sight. Eventually I retrieved my safety glasses from inside my helmet and got a towel on my bleeding cut. Nobody knew what happened because I was just an insignificant back-up kicker and backup quarterback in an intense battle where I played no role. Tim Krumrie has no idea what happened to me except that his man had not made the tackle.

But I am certain that that play solidified in Krumrie's mind just exactly what it took to execute the perfect contact football collision. I am certain that that play was for Tim Krumrie the defining moment when all the pieces came together. That play brought to him the pure clarity of what it took physically and mentally to achieve perfection on the football field. I had been the instrument that was used for him to understand and realize football perfection. Of course we beat the Mondovi Buffaloes and went undefeated that year. As far as the playoffs went, though, as mentioned, they made the playoffs and we did not. It would take us another undefeated season to actually make the playoffs and win the Wisconsin State Football Championship in our division where I did not have to play an insignificant role; and where I did not have to teach Tim Krumrie any more about football perfection.

As for Krumrie, who went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and the Cincinnati Bengals, he had two more significant plays to make, himself. The first was when he snapped his own leg on national television against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. And the second, which I just became aware of today, was when he snapped the Green Bay Packer's Don Majikowski's ankle in a game in Green Bay on September 20, 1992 which brought Brett Favre into the game in relief and ushered in the Brett Favre era.

I won't take all the credit for launching the career of Brett Favre by helping to perfect the football abilities of the defender who injured the one thing standing in Favre's way, Don Majikowski. No, that would be unrealistic. But imagine how things might have turned out had I kicked the ball and then laid the lumber on Tim Krumrie on that fall day in 1976; laid him out, laid him up, destroyed his confidence, ruined his career and kept him out of the fateful game at Lambeau which allowed Favre to come in and begin his heroics. Instead of landing in the Hall of Fame, Favre's greatest claim to glory might have been squeezing out the best under-arm fart of anybody on the sidelines.

No, it is clearly my humility, my nice-guy attitude, and my love for the Green Bay Packers that carried the day. Yeah, I could have laid the lumber onto Krumrie...uh-huh, I sure could have...and the scar still visible on my eyebrow bears witness to the fact that I didn't. Yup, I took one for my team, the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains, for my Green Bay Packers, and for Brett Flavious Favre. Yes sir, that was the day that I got launched by Tim Krumrie which helped launch Brett Favre's football career. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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