Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, the Bengals accidentally leaked what very much looked like the start of a Ring of Honor. After 50+ years since their inception and 40 years since their first Super Bowl run, it’s about time the club honors its greatest and most influential people.
In this series, we will highlight players we feel are either well deserving of a spot, or will be worthy very soon. The list has grown fairly sizable with how long Cincinnati has hosted the Bengals, and they have plenty to catch up on with the potential installation.
Perhaps the most popular defensive player in franchise history gets our spotlight today. While Cincinnati has rostered more talented players in their history, no one in franchise history was tougher than the nose tackle of their Super Bowl XXIII defensive line.
Tim Krumrie (No. 69)
- Height: 6-2
- Weight: 270
- Position: Nose tackle
- Bengals Career: 1983-1994
- Drafted: 10th round, 276th pick (1983)
Tim Krumrie grew up in Wisconsin where he excelled as a high school athlete. He won the state championship as a heavyweight wrestler and was such a standout on the football field that the award given to the best high school defensive lineman in the state is named in his honor.
He was dominant at the University of Wisconsin, leading the team in tackles in all four seasons. Krumrie still holds the school’s records for solo tackles with 276. Despite a highly-successful college career, Krumrie wasn’t drafted until Round 10 of the 1983 NFL Draft.
How does such a low pick become a ring of honor candidate? He did it by challenging the Bengals’ top talent. Krumrie was matched up against their first-round pick center Dave Rimington in a drill called “the nutcracker.” Rimington had won the Outland Trophy for the NCAA’s best offensive linemen twice at the University of Nebraska, but trophies don’t win drills.
“Tenth-round draft choices aren’t supposed to make the team, but the No. 1 is a shoo-in,” Krumrie later said. “If I beat the No. 1 guy, I figured they had to look at me.”
Krumrie destroyed Rimington four times in a row and quickly caught the attention of the coaching staff.
Bengals Hall-of-Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz remembers that drill well. “I remember saying, ‘Thank God he’s a nose tackle and not a defensive end.’ From that day on he had everybody’s respect.”
Krumrie started two games as a rookie and became the full-time starter the following year.
Setting the tone in practice was nothing new for Krumrie. He wrestled for a year at Wisconsin and worked out with Russ Hellickson, who later won a Silver medal in the Olympics. Their coach Duane Kleven recalls asking the Olympian about training with Krumrie, “I once asked Russ what it was like working out with Tim. Russ just turned around and ran into a wall. I always feel that most people have a point at which they will quit, and most people know where that is because at some point in time they have quit. I don’t think Tim Krumrie knows where that point is.”
That same intensity could be seen throughout his career. Bengals head coach Sam Wyche knew this first hand. “The only danger with Tim Krumrie is you’ve got to stay a little away from him before game time, or he’ll beat the crap out of you trying to get you up.”
Krumrie’s best season came in 1988. His 152 tackles were the fourth-most in the league and the Bengals went to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that was when injury struck. Krumrie fractured both his tibia and fibula in that game. After being carted off the field, he fought with paramedics and refused to go to the hospital. He wanted to watch the game from the locker room. Eventually, they were able to convince him that he would go into shock if he was not taken to the hospital. He cared so much about his teammates, that he did not want to miss a second of that game even if he couldn’t play.
His college wrestling coach said above that Krumrie never quit. That was certainly the case after his injury. Krumrie recovered from that injury after a steel rod was surgically implanted in his leg, and incredibly he started the opening game of the following season. In fact, despite this horrendous injury, he played six more seasons and never missed a single game. The only time he ever missed a game because of 1987 players strike.
In his NFL career, he had 34.5 career sacks, placing him seventh on the Bengals all-time list, but the statistic that really stands out is solo tackles.
Krumrie holds the Bengals’ record for solo tackles all-time with 1008. That is only 12 fewer than the next two guys on the list (Brian Simmons, 512 and James Francis, 508) combined. To be fair, tackles weren’t split into solo and assists until the end of Krumrie’s career, but his 1017 combined tackles are still 291 more than Simmons’s 726.
When you look at lists of top tacklers, they are flooded with linebackers and have a few safeties sprinkled in. How does a nose tackle put up those kinds of numbers?
Former Bills center Ken Hull says that Krumrie was different. “He makes tackles all over the place. There’s a lot of people who move well inside, but they don’t make tackles from sideline to sideline like he does. He’s almost like a linebacker in a three or four point stance. That’s how mobile he is. He’s the type of person that if you ever get him on the ground, you better hold him down. Because if he gets up, he’s going to make the tackle.”
Ring of Honor Resume
- Two-time Pro Bowler
- 1988 First-Team All-Pro
- 1008 solo tackles (first among Bengals all-time by a substantial margin)
- 152 tackles during 1988 Super Bowl run (second most tackles in a season by a Bengal)
- Recovered from perhaps the second most notorious football injury of all-time (behind Joe Theismann), did not miss a single game, and continued to play at a high level for six more years
- Never missed a game due to injury, only playing fewer than 16 games in 1987 when a player strike limited him to 12 games
- 1008 solo tackles
If Krumrie isn’t named to the Bengals Ring of Honor, I definitely wouldn’t want to be the one who has to tell him. Luckily for him, the leak from this month featured his name along with other Bengals greats.
Krumrie was a fierce competitor who dominated offensive linemen throughout his NFL career, showing incredible toughness and resilience. He is one of the greatest Bengals of all time and an easy choice for their first class of inductees.