Master of his Destiny (continued)

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But besides interceptions, there are other things a good free safety must do - last second deflections and last ditch tackles - and Paul could always be counted on for both.

"When I got to Minnesota," he recalled, "I was quite fortunate to play a part in a truly great defense. I was never really that great of a defender against the run…my objective in playing the run was to just stop the runner before he reached our goal line."

A cagey player, Paul never took unnecessary risks when in coverage. "I never take a chance," he once offered. "I’ve got to get that man down any way I can. If I take a diving shot at him and miss the tackle, he’s got a touchdown. I go for the interception only when I’m convinced I can get it; if there’s any doubt in my mind I go for the tackle."

Krause’s main chore in Minnesota was to stop the long bomb. The Vikings used a three-deep zone coverage downfield, using the linebackers in the short territory, while freeing three defensive backs deep in an effort to contain receivers. Krause, a master at deception, excelled in the Vikings’ system.

Before each game, Krause would meet with the other members of the secondary and go over their game strategy. Every meeting ended with the enthusiastic chant of "Ban the bomb!"

"We tried to disguise our defense so that the quarterback didn’t know what we would do until the ball was snapped and we moved into it," explained Krause. "I tried to be someplace where he didn’t expect to find a free safety. Positioning was always important to me. I knew how much ground I could cover, and knew how fast I could go."

Krause’s instincts were like a sixth sense. Combined with his remarkable ability to react to given situations, he quickly emerged as one of the most feared safeties in the league. In 1969, Steelers’ quarterback Dick Shiner found out the hard way just how finely honed Krause’s instincts were, when he intercepted a pass and dashed 77 yards for a touchdown. Later in the game Krause again intercepted Shiner, as the Vikings destroyed the Steelers 52-14. His performance won him Associated Press Defensive Player of the Week honors.

"When I play defense I don’t watch a guy’s stomach or anything when he runs at me," Krause once said when describing his technique. "I watch the flow of the whole play. I try to keep everything in front of me - watching the quarterback, the movement of the backs and the flow of the linemen."

Krause’s consistently outstanding play was one of the keys to turning the Vikings into a perennial championship contender. During his 12 seasons with the Vikes, the team played in four Super Bowls (IV, VIII, IX, and XI) and five NFL/NFC Championship games.

Grant said of his star defender: "Paul is what free safety means. He sits back there and sees things happen; has great peripheral vision and gets feelings about plays and quarterbacks. He moves to where the action is without endangering his own responsibilities."

Against the Cleveland Browns in the 1969 NFL Championship Game, Krause demonstrated his big play ability. Early in the third quarter, Cleveland wide receiver Gary Collins was sent on a fly pattern to the end zone. Collins beat cornerback Earsell Mackbee and broke into the open field. Just as Browns’ quarterback Frank Ryan released what looked to be a sure touchdown pass, Krause converged on the scene, cut in front of Collins and sealed the Browns’ fate with a touchdown-stealing interception.

Collins admitted after the game that he never saw Krause. "I knew it was coming," Krause said. "It was third and 12 and they had to go for it. They like to throw to Collins in that case. We were ready for it."

Throughout the first half of the 1970s, Krause dominated his position. He was named All-NFC in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1975. He played in six Pro Bowls during the same period. With his 10-interception performance in the 1975 season, Krause ran his career total to 74, just five shy of Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell’s all-time record of 79 steals.

"Paul had an outstanding year in 1975," Grant remarked. "That is even more impressive when you account that teams avoid the middle because of Krause…He has the experience that is so important back there."

The veteran defensive back added 2 interceptions in both 1976 and 1977. Then in 1978, for the first time in his career, Krause went a full season without intercepting a pass. He was one short of Tunnell’s record. Always in peak condition - Krause, who missed just two games due to injuries in 16 seasons - decided he would play one more season hoping to break the long-held record.

By week 14 of the 1979 season, however, it looked like he might have to settle for tying the record. He’d managed just one interception in the Vikings’ first 13 games. Then on December 2, in a game against the Los Angeles Rams, the 37-year-old Krause picked off quarterback Vince Ferragamo for the record. Later in the same game he intercepted a Bob Lee pass, establishing a new record of 81 career interceptions.

"I was a rookie in 1979," recalled Vikings offensive lineman Dave Huffman, "and Keith Nord and I are standing on the sidelines when Paul runs us over after intercepting the record pass. On the plane coming home Paul leaned over to both of us and said, ‘That football was worth more than both your salaries combined.’"

A few weeks later Paul Krause retired as the most successful pass-stealing free safety in the history of the NFL. In 1998, the man who revolutionized the free safety position was awarded pro football’s ultimate honor when he became just the third Minnesota Vikings player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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