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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson (14) tries to get away from Utah defensive end Paul Kruger (11) in the second half of their NCAA football game in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Former Ute Paul Kruger talks leading youth and a youthful NFL team

Paul Kruger is taking a leadership role in two youth movements: One in Cleveland, and the other back home in Utah.

Kruger went from the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens to the Cleveland Browns in 2013, earning a five-year, $40 million contract but enduring the growing pains of the league’s second-youngest team.

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"We’re obviously in the building stages, but it’s exciting to be a part of that," Kruger told The Tribune by phone on Tuesday. "We’ve just got to put the pieces together and go forward. I really feel we have the type of squad to win 10, 11 games."

Asked how the culture in Cleveland is different from that of Baltimore, Kruger said a more youthful attitude pervades the Browns locker room, but that even after a 4-12 season in which they suffered a handful of narrow losses down the stretch, the desire and effort is equivalent.

With a little help from Browns wideout Miles Austin, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, brothers Dave and Joe, and the National Guard’s 19th Special Force Group, Kruger shared some wisdom from his football journey with scores of young men at Camp Williams last Saturday.

He says that even for a preternaturally gifted 6-foot-4, 270-pound man, there are more important things to learn than football technique. His intent in founding Paragon last year was to address those.

"It’s really more about life skills," said Kruger, a particular fan of the Guard’s Leaders’ Reaction Course. "Building those principles and ideologies for the young mean to take forward in their life."

Here are a few more of Kruger’s thoughts as he prepares to return to Cleveland on Wednesday:

On Browns draftee Johnny Manziel » "He seems like a good guy. I don’t know him too well. I think he’s bringing some excitement, which is good. I think it just adds to the hype and gets the guys ready to go."

Kruger said he has no insight into the starting quarterback battle. "I’m worried about what I’ve got to do," he said. "I let the coaches figure out the rest."

On the Utes’ new facilities » "I’ve conditioned with them a couple times," he said. Of the Eccles Football Center, he added: "It’s pretty elaborate, man. I wish we had that when I was there."

On whether the 2008 team could’ve been a contender in the Pac-12 » He couldn’t say. But "it definitely makes a difference," he said. "Playing those kinds of games every week, it definitely makes a difference."

— Matthew Piper

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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