Jim Weber runs LostLettermen.com, devoted to keeping tabs on former players and other bits of nostalgia. Today he catches up with former Alabama defensive lineman Barry Krauss ahead of Saturday's showdown between the Crimson Tide and Penn State.
Let's be clear up front: Barry Krauss was no slouch on the football field. He was a member of Alabama's All-Centennial Team, was picked sixth overall in the 1979 NFL Draft and had a 12-year NFL career with the Colts and Dolphins.
But you would be hard-pressed to find another football player better known for a single play – and still more successful at profiting from that play – than the man who is credited with Alabama's legendary goal-line stand against Penn State with the national championship on the line in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.
No. 2 Alabama led No. 1 Penn State, 14-7, with under seven minutes to go and the Nittany Lions facing fourth-and-goal from the one-foot line. Quarterback Chuck Fusina handed the ball to tailback Mike Guman, who plowed toward the goal line. But just as he reached the line of scrimmage, it appeared as if Guman hit a brick wall – stonewalled by the Crimson Tide defense short of the goal line and crumpling into his own backfield.
As the Tide players lifted themselves off the field, one Alabama defender remained on the ground: In taking the collision with Guman head-on, Krauss only added to the mythical aura of the stand by suffering a pinched nerve in his neck and a busted helmet. Alabama went on to win by that same score and Krauss was instantly immortalized as a larger-than-life figure in the state of Alabama, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the iconic print of the stop that still saturates the state three decades later.
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Krauss is still basking in the glory of that monumental play: On his personal website, there’s a giant picture of the collision with Guman, a video of an interview with Krauss about the play, his autobiography about the play, "Ain't Nothin' But A Winner: Bear Bryant, The Goal Line Stand, And A Chance Of A Lifetime," and a framed print of the play that he painted and autographed himself, on sale for $350.
Krauss, who lives in Indianapolis and serves as a Crimson Tide sideline reporter, is also a motivational speaker and uses the goal-line stand as his hook: "This moment has become the foundation of my speech and what can happen when a group of committed people come together at the right time." Without that moment, the trajectory for Krauss, and Alabama football, might be very different: If football really is the proverbial game of inches, Krauss' career from "The Stand" is proof that the same can be said for the lives of the people who play it.
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Jim Weber is the founder of LostLettermen.com, a historical college football and men's basketball site that links the sports' past to the present.