A once-reluctant Hurricane wears coat of distinction Defensive end Krein sports Green Jacket

December 29, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- It's the greatest honor a University of Miam defensive lineman can receive -- the Green Jacket award. It started with the late Jerome Brown, and was passed on to such greats as Russell Maryland and Rusty Medearis.

The Green Jacket now belongs to Miami defensive end Darren Krein.

Finally, he feels at home.

"Jerome wanted to start a tradition, so, each year, the outstanding junior defensive lineman got the green jacket for his senior year," Krein said. "I got it last week."

"Now, we've added something else," he said. "The lineman gets to wear No. 99 in his senior year in honor of Jerome [who was killed in a car accident earlier this year]. You don't think it's serious? Russell called me Sunday after I saw his big butt flopping around on TV after scoring a touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys. Once you get this, you better perform. All the others are watching. I know Jerome is from above. This is incredible after what I've been through at Miami."

It's a pressure Krein can live with, almost similar to the one he faced during the 1991 season. When Medearis went down with a season-ending knee injury in Game 3, Krein was moved into the starting lineup.

All Krein, 6 feet 4, 250 pounds, did was add 24 pounds during the off-season and finish sixth on the team in tackles with 63, tied for first in sacks with eight and first in pressures with 24.

He also had perhaps the Hurricanes' defensive play of the year, intercepting a pass and returning it 28 yards for a third-quarter touchdown in a 17-16 win against Penn State.

Krein said he really never dreamed about such a moment. A game-winning touchdown? By a defensive end? On national TV?

The leash on his imagination wasn't that long.

"A play to that extent on this level, are you kidding me?" Krein said.

"His play and success tell you about what kind of athlete and per

son he is," said Sonny Lubick, Hurricanes defensive coordinator. "Incredible talent. Patient. Unselfish."

Those weren't the words Krein heard in his first three years at Miami, when he was labeled everything from a doubter to traitor.

It started in 1989, with Krein trying to void his signed letter of intent to Miami. Coach Jimmy Johnson had recurited him out of Aurora, Colo., and promised Krein he would remain Miami's coach. Three weeks later, Johnson was off to the Cowboys, and Krein said he felt betrayed.

He filed an appeal with the NCAA, which brought all kinds of headlines.

"As soon as you sign a letter of intent, you don't have any rights," Krein said. "Football players are making all this money for the school, and they don't get enough back and don't have choices for what they can do. It didn't seem fair to me."

The Hurricanes weren't happy about the publicity either.

"We looked at it as an insult," linebacker Jesse Armstead said. "When we read about it in the paper -- Darren thinking about not coming, he's thinking about getting out of the scholarship -- it was like, 'Fine, we don't need him anyway.' That was our attitude."

Krein could have gotten out of his commitment, but would have been forced to sit out two seasons and lose a year of eligibility. He pursued legal action, hiring a lawyer to challenge the NCAA's transfer policy.

He decided to drop the action when nothing had been decided by July.

"It was taking too long," Krein said. "I had to set my sights for what I was going to do. I was going to Miami and work things out."

Krein spent his time on the scout team. He spent a year trying to meld into the Hurricanes family, knowing that some of his teammates would not embrace him.

"Look at him," cornerback Ryan McNeil said, pointing to Krein. "He could have quit and easily walked away. But he didn't, because he's a survivor."

"I just kept trying to work hard and doing the little things," Krein said. "In time, I knew my time would come. I guess it's now."

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