From the mat to the gridiron
By Spencer Yohe
It’s an understatement to say that Caledonia is proud of their favorite son, Karl Klug. He’s considered by all as a down-to earth, common person, and humble, to say the least.
The former two-time Minnesota state wrestling individual tournament entrant is just completing organized team activities (OTAs) in preparation for his second season with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. Karl is coming off an outstanding first year where he led the team in sacks with seven – the most registered by a rookie defensive Titan or Oiler lineman since 1982 when they started keeping those stats. Karl played in all 16 games last season. He had 32 tackles, 10 quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss, four passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. The 6’3, 275-pound standout from the “Wild Turkey Capital” of Minnesota and “The Heart of Quilt Country” was featured with a weekly ‘Stats Column’ in the local newspaper – The Caledonia Argus. He now makes his home in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
Karl was recently married to his college sweetheart Stacy, who graduated from Mercy College in Des Moines, Iowa with a nursing degree. She is employed by Vanderbilt and Centerville Centers as a PRN in the Nashville area.
Karl told me they have about ten OTAs, which is an extension to the upcoming three mini-camps, before the Titans training camp officially starts at the end of July.
Karl became interested in football and wrestling in his younger days with his identical twin brother Kevin. “My brother and I always enjoyed the physical aspects of those sports and competing,” said Karl. “What we all played was football and wrestling around when we were growing up.”
Karl’s wrestling stats at the high school level included two trips to the MSHSL individual state tournament. He was a two-time section runner-up, two-time Stewartville Invitational champion, and a two-time all-conference selection. Karl’s varsity record was 69-40, with 43 pins.
His fondest moments of high school sports were participating with his teammates and brother, and wrestling with his buddies. Obviously playing in the Metrodome in the 2005 Prep Bowl state finals as a senior was very special. He also remembers that Kasey Meiners was the toughest “You Know What” around, in the wrestling room. Meiners, who won an NJCAA National Championship and OW Award for Rochester CTC, serves as an assistant wrestling coach today for the Caledonia Area Warriors.
Karl earned first team all-state honors in high school and was named The La Crosse Tribune Sports Player of the Year. Karl was a running back and a defensive end for the Warriors. His brother Kevin opened holes for him as a fullback. Karl had 77 tackles as a senior and 20 sacks. He was also selected to the Minnesota Vikings All-State Team his senior year.
Karl graduated from The University of Iowa in 2010 with a degree in Recreational Management. He had a great career at Iowa, appearing in 40 games, including 26 consecutive starts to end his career. Karl tallied 140 tackles, including 31 stops for loss, 9.5 sacks, eight quarterback pressures, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
In Karl’s senior year, he earned Second Team All-Big 10 Honors. His awards include the Roy J. Carver Most Valuable Player Award on Defense, Iron Hawk Award, and Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” Award. Karl was also selected to participate in The East-West Shrine Game, and was one of seven seniors named to the 2010 Leadership Group. He also served as a permanent team captain for the Hawkeye defense. Karl’s fondest memory in college at The University of Iowa was winning in The Fiesta Bowl.
His fondest memory so far in the Pros is just getting drafted in the fifth round by the Tennessee Titans as the 142nd pick.
Karl would advise athletes today to stay focused. “I’m not an inspirational person, but you can’t lose focus, and get caught up in all the other stuff and its distractions.”
Trust me Karl Klug has inspired many athletes at Caledonia Area High School and the surrounding communities in the Tri-State Area of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and even “old guys” like myself.
“This is good advice for not only sports, but life, so prioritize your goals,” Karl said.
I grew up and rode the bus with Karl’s Uncle Bernie, so I saw the Klug work-ethic first-hand. They were front-runners when it came to old-fashioned hard work.
Karl lists his parents, Dan and Mary, his brother Kevin, and his sister Kelsey as his mentors and sources of support. He also includes high school football and track coach, Carl Freuchte as a mentor, still staying in close contact today. “We talk a lot,” Karl said, “as Coach Freuchte’s son Issac is starting his first collegiate season with the Minnesota Gophers after a year at RCTC.” This is a great support group that gathers weekly to watch Karl’s NFL games at Ma-Cal-Grove Country Club on Sundays. “You definitely get closer to your high school coach in building your relationships than with your college and pro coaches,” Karl said.
Karl gets asked all the time about the carry-over value of wrestling to football, and he enjoys visiting with former wrestlers that were his teammates at both the college and pro level. “It’s all about leverage and hand fighting in the line of play, and wanting to gain the momentum over your opponent whether he’s on offense or defense and those two items are keys to winning the battle up front,” Karl said. “I still can remember back in the wrestling days at Cal when wrestling coaches Jay Tolleson and Jay Wheaton had our ‘heavy hands’ drills. I believe that’s the number one chant I hear from the college coaches at matside today – ‘Heavy Hands!’”
Twin brother Kevin, who was a standout NSIC All-Conference Football Player at MSU-Mankato, has moved to Bellevue, west of Nashville, and serves as a strength coach at DI Sports Facility, an organization Peyton Manning started.
Karl has made some close friends outside of football and has a fishing and hunting buddy where they catch trout. He also got his first turkey a while back. Coming out of “Wild Turkey Country” in Caledonia, I’m sure Karl will be a pro at that sport as well.
I asked Karl about the team’s upcoming season. “We were 9-7, just missed the playoffs, and added some key people,” said Karl. “Obviously Minnesota knows all about former All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, so we’re optimistic. Like to make the play-offs, but as we all know, it’s a small window. We’re feeling good now.”
Before last season Head Coach Mike Munchak compared Karl to a Kyle Vanden Bosch for his athleticism. “He’s one of those guys that’s an irritant for offensive linemen because he’s going hard every play. You can’t relax on him.”
We’ll miss Karl at the July 4th Eitzen Days. As Karl says “You got to love Eitzen Days!“ The Klug’s will be entertaining Stacy’s family in Nashville.
Keep doing good, Karl. You will always be “The Best of the Best” in Caledonia where we all look up to you as a great role model and friend!
This story was reprinted with permission from The Guillotine.