Local boy Krause found his niche

Pat Peppler, the Green Bay Packers’ director of player personnel, took a chance on a small-college running back from St. Norbert College in De Pere, which is just 15 minutes away from the team’s headquarters.

Larry Krause was selected in the final round (17th) of the 1970 National Football League draft.

“At that stage of the draft, you’re lucky to get a player who can contribute to your team at all,” Peppler said in an interview from his Florida home Sunday.

“At that point, you take a chance on the local guy. Enough of Phil’s (Bengtson) staff had seen him play. Larry Krause was a good football player.”

Peppler said he was pulling for Krause, a native of Greenwood, Wis., who grew up on a dairy farm, to make the final 40-man Packer roster.

It went down to the wire.

The 6-foot, 208-pound Krause had a solid camp, but he was Bengtson’s final cut.

“Back then, if a team claimed you at that point they had to put you on their 40-man roster,” Krause said. “The Packers cut me and hoped to get me through waivers. But the Steelers called and claimed me.”

The bottom line was this: Krause would be on an NFL roster. He just didn’t know if it would be in Green Bay or Pittsburgh, and the Steelers wanted Krause at practice the next day.

“I would have had to drive all night, and I was prepared to do it,” Krause said. “But I was hoping to stay in Green Bay.”

Peppler made a call to the Steelers’ Art Rooney Sr.

“I told Art he was a local kid, and we’d like to keep him,” Peppler said. “Art was a great guy and let Krause go. He knew down the road the favor would be returned.”

Krause was excited to be playing for the team he rooted for growing up and took advantage of the opportunity.

“In the 1960s, every kid in Wisconsin watched the Packers game on Sunday,” he said. “And now I was one of them.”

On the field, he dedicated his time to special teams.

“Lucky for me, NFL teams were just starting to hire special teams coaches and keep players just for special teams,” Krause said. “I was kind of a new breed as teams realized the importance of special teams and started emphasizing it more. I played on all of them.”

Due to an injury suffered by Dave Hampton, Krause became the team’s primary kickoff returner in ’70.

He carved out his niche, leading the special teams in tackles and being one of the NFC’s top kickoff returners with 18 returns for 513 yards (28.5 avg.).

“I took a lot of pride in being the first guy down the field on coverage,” he said. “I had to lead the team in tackles. That’s how I’d stay on the roster.”

Krause saw very limited action at running back, which featured Donny Anderson, Travis Williams and Jim Grabowski.

Krause had just two carries for 13 yards in the disappointing 6-8 regular season. He also had two catches for 22 yards.

Krause’s first and only NFL touchdown was a memorable one – and it came against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

His 100-yard kickoff return keyed Green Bay to a 20-12 victory, evening its record at 6-6 before the Packers were blown out, 35-17, by Chicago and trounced, 20-0, by Detroit in their final two games on the road.

Bengtson retired after the season, and that was not good news for Krause.

“Phil liked me and gave me opportunities,” Krause said. “Coach Devine had no interest in me as a position player.”

Devine drafted bruising fullback John Brockington of Ohio State with his first selection in the 1971 draft. Brockington proved to be a workhorse, gaining 1,105 yards in his rookie season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Krause, who rushed three times for minus-6 yards. Hampton returned to handle the kickoff returns, so Krause had just five returns for 101 yards with a long of 29.

1972 was a great season for the Packers, who won the NFC Central title with a 12-4 record. It was a difficult and challenging season for Krause, who broke his jaw in the preseason finale and spent the entire season on injured reserve.

“I went to Devine and asked him to put me back on the active roster after eight weeks,” Krause said. “But you had to clear waivers, and Dan said he didn’t want to do that because he didn’t want to lose me. He said we’ll just bring me back next year. So I sat on IR all season.”

In 1973, Krause remained a special teams mainstay and standout. He returned 11 kickoffs for 244 yards (22.2 avg.) in 1973 and one in ’74.

Devine resigned to take the head coaching position at Notre Dame after a frustrating 6-8 season that included the Packers losing its last three games on the road.

“Our team was divided under Dan Devine. It was the old Packer guard and the new Devine camp,” Krause, now 64, said.

“Devine never had the full cooperation of the staff. As in any organization, there has to be one purpose, one focus. We never had that.”

Enter new head coach and general manager Bart Starr, who had high expectations placed on him to return Green Bay to glory.

Krause separated his shoulder in training camp and was put on injured reserve again before being released a few days later.

“I didn’t get any calls from other NFL teams,” he said. “I didn’t have an agent and still had an injured shoulder. I felt it was time to move on. That was it for me.”

Krause went into banking, first with a credit union in Sun Prairie, and then with a savings and loan company in Wausau, and finally with American Family Insurance in Madison. He retired to a home on Great Bass Lake, 18 miles north of Antigo.

He and his wife enjoy traveling south for the winter and following the Packers.

The Krauses also enjoyed watching his son, Scott, star at UW-Stevens Point and develop into an All-American quarterback. Scott now lives in Waunakee and coaches at the local high school, which has won three straight WIAA Division 2 football championships.

“I have no idea how Scott could throw a football so far. I had a terrible throwing arm,” said Krause.

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