Rhett Wilkinson

Utah Defensive Line Ready To Become Stars

Created on Jul. 12, 2013 10:09 AM EST

Fortunately, not every story of brothers is like that of Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Others in America are not of tragedy, but of immense triumph. A trio of Orem, Utah, natives should be counted among them.

Last fall, Utah’s Dave and Joe Kruger joined All-American Star Lotulelei in anchoring arguably the best defensive line in the Pac-12. That success has parlayed into fledging NFL careers. While Lotulelei was drafted in the league’s first round in April, Joe was selected in the seventh round after leaving Salt Lake City one year early.

But the undrafted Dave brings the other dimension. In surviving the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp as an undrafted free agent, he joins star brother Paul — also of the Utah defensive line — in the rock-and-roll capital of the world. One of the best defensive linemen in the league, Paul signed a massive contract with the Browns in March after four years with Baltimore.

Dave and Paul’s pairing is much more celebratory than it’s been in the past. After they attended a party in January 2008, Paul was stabbed in the ribs and abdomen with a knife, causing a collapsed lung and punctured artery, his intestines protruding from his side.

Paul lost a kidney and spleen at 14 after riding in a Jeep that rolled over. And in September, Paul suffered an excruciating back injury that threatened an eventual breakout season. But he recorded two sacks in the Ravens’ Super Bowl win.

Now, all the brothers are board directors of Kruger Care, an organization designed to help children in crisis, spurned by Paul’s stabbing incident.

Off-the-field inspiration aside, the Utes hope they can at least reflect the on-field afflatus offered by the Krugers of recent past.

Or a Star. But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake are confident they have some of the other type. They have lost 75 percent of the unit that ranked second in the Pac-12 against the rush last year to the bright lights of the NFL. But Whittingham references his familiar “reload, not rebuild” mantra with his new crew.

At this point, its members certainly shine differently (there’s a brother story here, too).

The outer-orbital analysis:

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