Monson: There's big-time brotherly love on the Utes' defense
Dave and Joe Kruger are brothers, but not twins.
They have their kinship, their brotherly bond, their similarities.
They are extraordinarily big and strong. They come from a family of defensive linemen. Their dad, Paul, was one and their older brother, Paul, now in the NFL, is one and they are, too. Together, along with Star Lotulelei and others, they form what some believe might be the best defensive front in the history of Utah football.
"They've been saying our defensive line this season could be one of the best in the nation," Joe says. "And I agree. It's a big thing to say, but we can be that good."
"Our parents tell us to stay humble," says Dave. "And keep working hard."
Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake distinguishes the brothers this way:
"Dave is one of the toughest guys you'll ever see. He's a hard worker and a brute. He's a leader. He's been on the field here since his freshman year. He's like a big brother to everyone. He enforces what the coaches think should be done. It helps having a guy like him. When a player who is valued and respected by the team talks and acts like that, everyone listens to him."
(Aside: at Saturday's scrimmage-turned-practice at steamy Rice-Eccles Stadium, a heated confrontation broke out between two Ute players. Dave Kruger was the first to step in to replace chaos with control.)
"Joe might be the best Kruger of them all," Sitake says. "He's got Paul's motor and a huge frame. When Joe wants to go, not too many people can stop him. If he gets that spark, he'll be unbelievable. We need him to do that, to grow up and be who he can be. He's remarkably talented."
Dave, a senior, is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle. Joe, a junior, is a 6-7, 280-pound end.
They are brothers and, yeah, they are heavy.
"These guys are good," says Sitake. "Really good."
"Football's our identity," Dave says. "But we're not idiot football players."
Dave likes to fish and play poker, pingpong and golf. He also likes to read books. "Whether I go to the NFL or not, I am going to law school," he says.
Joe likes to hunt, especially elk, swim and listen to classical and soothing music. "I really like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Seal and piano songs," he says.
When it comes to their personal philosophies of playing defensive line, though, their mindsets are exactly the same, even if their progression toward that end isn't.
Says Dave: "I want to stop the run, get sacks, make plays and win games."
Says Joe: "Our main focus is to stop the run. If you stop the run, you stop everything, and then you win. But I also want to go for the quarterback."
Each of the defenders gained weight from last time around, Dave 20 pounds and Joe 15. "I feel stronger, a little more stout," Dave says. "I'm stronger, too," says Joe.
The more experienced Dave has a comfort zone the size of an all-you-can-eat buffet. He says he's already seen and consumed pretty much everything a college offense can throw at him: "There's nothing new anymore."
Joe is trying to stretch his own boundaries in that regard: "Last year, I was out there thinking a lot, instead of playing. I wasn't prepared enough. I want to be prepared."
A sentiment they share is that there are few satisfactions in life quite like playing on the same line in the same defense at the same time, picking each other up when needed, celebrating together when warranted.
"We love spending time together, and we love playing together," Joe says. "It's been a blessing. When we make a play, we chest-bump. Chest-bumping your brother after a big play is a cool thing. Our parents always say how proud they are of us. It's been great."
"If Joe or I make a big play, we're extra excited out there," Dave says. "It's fun to compete with him. We're so family-oriented. Our family's motto, which my mom came up with, is, 'Where we go one, we go all.' "
Nowhere has that been more evident than on the Ute defensive front.
Dave and Joe may not be identical, they may not have the same potential, the same abilities, the same dimensions, the same outlooks on everything, but they are the same blood. As Momma Kruger would have it, where they go one, they go together.
"It's awesome," says Joe.
"It's awesome," says Dave.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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