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‘Like a coach on the field’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mike Krause knew something wasn’t quite right and it had nothing to do with the hearty Lincoln Inn breakfast he and teammate Jake Coffman were preparing to devour in downtown DeKalb that morning in 2009 following a summer workout.

Fortunately, the Northern Illinois University football player got it checked out.

“My chest felt tight, didn’t feel quite right so I just went in and talked to (team trainer) Kami (Powell) about what I was feeling,” he said.

The defensive linemen of 260-some pounds from Germantown, Wis., had established himself the previous fall during his redshirt sophomore season. He had started all 13 of the team’s games — including the Independence Bowl — in coach Jerry Kill’s first season.

Powell immediately checked Krause’s blood pressure, found it to be “real high” and quickly got him to the hospital for more testing.

“A complete shock,” said Coffman, the former U.S. Marine and Iraq vet who mans one of the defensive end spots. “Mike is a strong kid who (usually) doesn’t say anything, so you knew it was something serious.”

Doctors soon found out just how serious.

“I had a blood clot in my left coronary artery that was blocking about 60 percent of it,” Krause said. “It was pretty surprising for a 21-year-old kid who works out all the time.”

Family history didn’t point to it, but it sidelined him for the 2009 season nonetheless.

“They had me on some prescriptions to get the blood clot in control (dissolved) and reduce my cholesterol, along with blood thinners,” he said. “If I had played football while on blood thinners, I could’ve gotten a hit that would’ve caused me to bleed internally.

“That (news) hit me pretty hard. I didn’t have any idea anything like that was coming.”

When the season started, Krause remained with the team, took part in team meetings and even went on a couple trips to road games, but his physical activities were severely restricted. By October, he was able to do more.

“They tried to ease me back, so it was real limited at first to stuff like walking around the field (while his teammates practiced),” said Krause, who felt like a kid looking in the window of a locked candy store.

“It was hard because I only had the chest pain the one time in the summer. The rest of the time I felt completely fine.”

Choosing not to ignore that pain was one of the smartest plays he’s ever made.

He was soon back lifting weights, took part in winter conditioning and spring practice and hasn’t missed a beat since. He continues to take medicine to keep his cholesterol down and watches his diet, making sure to limit the fast food stops.

Now, at 266 pounds, he’s been a force on the line, starting at noseguard for all 10 games the 8-2 Huskies have played. He takes part in about two-thirds of the defensive snaps in the line rotation and enjoys working again in the relative anonymity that defines those battles in the trenches.

“He’s providing leadership and is like a coach on the field,” said defensive line coach Jeff Phelps, noting last year’s experience has probably helped benefit the team in the long run. “Seeing things from a different perspective, almost like a coach, helps him see things from another side.”

Krause had new career highs of five tackles and two tackles for loss in last week’s rout of Toledo and has tied his career best with 20 tackles so far this season, including four for losses. The coaches have named him the team’s defensive lineman of the week three times this year.

Krause, who may give up 40-50 pounds to some of his foes on the other side of the line, is doing a good job of keeping a low pad level and using his hands to get off the block, said Phelps.

“Our job is to penetrate, make the ball bounce and take up blocks so our linebackers and safeties can make the tackles,” said Krause, who completed his degree in business management and is now taking graduate classes.

“It’s a team defense. There’s no real MVPs, just everyone working together and getting the job done.”

The Huskies can clinch a share of the Mid-American West Division title and a berth in the league championship game Dec. 3rd in Detroit with a win Saturday at Ball State (11 a.m. kickoff, WSCR 670 AM).

“I’m enjoying my time now and definitely appreciate it,” Krause said. “We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us. All that matters is how we prepare this week. If we’re not ready, they could trip us up just as anybody could.”

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