by Mason Kelley
"Hitting Santana Moss was great," says Husky linebacker Tyler Krambrink. "I don't really know how to describe it. When I popped up after recovering the fumble, it was unreal; I have never seen anything like it. The stadium just exploded."
Husky fans no doubt know exactly the moment to which Krambrink refers. Battling sixth-ranked Miami at home in 2000, Washington was a decided underdog. Krambrink's first-quarter hit on future NFL star Moss, however, set the tone for a 34-29 Husky victory, sparking the team's run to the 2001 Rose Bowl title.
Krambrink forced another fumble, by Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, in the second quarter, cementing a reputation as one of team's hardest hitters.
Krambrink's only problem is that you have be healthy to inflict hits. The Eatonville, Wash., native has battled the injury bug since his junior year sat Eatonville High School. Despite suffering from a bout of mono that season, Krambrink scored 11 touchdowns as a tailback on offense, and seemed primed for a big senior year before a broken leg kept him out of all but three games. That was plenty of time to show college recruiters that he could contribute, however, as Krambrink rolled up eight touchdowns and 41 tackles.
He redshirted his freshman year at Washington before his breakout season in 2000, in which he racked up 24 tackles in 11 games. The injury gods, however, decided that two healthy years was enough for Krambrink, sending torn ligaments in his right wrist to keep him out of all but two games in 2001.A mostly healthy 2002 season followed, and Krambrink is determined not to let anything slow him down this season.
"I have been trying to get over that forever," he says. "It has been really frustrating, because I don't feel I have been able to play to the level that I'd like to. It seems like every time I get rolling again there is another setback. You always have adversity in life and there is not a whole lot you can do about it. You just have to take it head-on and deal with it."
With his hand almost completely healed, Krambrink will be able to get back on the field, helping the Huskies compete for the Pac-10 title. An outside linebacker this year after four years inside, Krambrink splits playing time with senior Greg Carothers.
"I would say that I am a little faster," Krambrink says when comparing his strengths to those of Carothers. "He has more mass and is probably better against the run than I am. My speed can help me in pass coverage, though, getting into the zone a little quicker."
As a kid, Krambrink applied his speed on the basketball court, not the football field.
"I lived in Wisconsin and I always played basketball," he says. "Basketball was really big at our school. There wasn't much to do in the fall, so I decided to go out for football. I started playing in seventh grade. I was a good athlete so I figured I would give it a shot."
It wasn't until he moved the mountain town of Eatonville that his love of football developed. At Eatonville, Friday night football brings out the whole town, which packs the stadium to see its Cruisers take the field.
"Football became my sport in eighth grade when I moved to Eatonville," he says. "Football is really big and there is a lot of tradition there. I had a good year in eighth grade and it continued every year after that. I really hadn't thought too much about playing in college until my junior year in high school."
Krambrink quit basketball after he failed to make the varsity team as a freshman, thinking he had more of a future in football.
"It just didn't interest me anymore," he says of his decision to quit basketball. "I didn't make the varsity team my freshman year and I decided, 'Maybe this isn't the sport for me anymore.' It might have been too lofty a goal, but it allowed me to focus my attention elsewhere."
His decision to come to Washington was equally simple.
"I really liked the coaching staff and liked the idea of being in Seattle, not too far from home," he says.
Krambrink's parents, John and Janet, make the drive from Eatonville to come to all of his games, as does his brother, Forrest.
"They come to every game," Krambrink says of his family. "They are always there to support me even if I'm injured or if I've had a bad game. They are always there encouraging me and keeping me going."
On game days, the Krambrinks are just three of 70,000 screaming people packing the stands at Husky Stadium, which, combined with the tremendous views of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier, still leaves Krambrink in awe.
"I was pretty nervous the first time I came out of the tunnel," he says. "My heart was just pounding. I wasn't even playing, but just being there was awesome."
Krambrink would love to have a tremendous season, but above all else he wants his team to be successful.
"Winning a national championship would be great," Krambrink says, "but I would be happy with a Rose Bowl, too."
His health intact, Krambrink can run out of the tunnel on Saturday knowing that he lays it all out on the field, holding nothing back.
Just ask Santana Moss.