Badger HS grad is getting defensive

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Todd Mishler | September 29, 2016

Peter Krien spent much of his high school career tormenting opposing defenses as a quarterback in Badger's vaunted, run-oriented attack.

He made the Southern Lakes Conference's second team as a junior and was selected to the first unit while earning Player of the Year honors as a senior, leading the Badgers to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association's Division 1 state playoff semifinals.

However, the former Lake Geneva standout has spent his collegiate playing days using his knowledge of offensive intricacies to help stop them as a linebacker at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

And the 5-foot-9, 200-pounder kicked off his senior campaign with a bang. He was named the WIAC's Defensive Player of the Week after the Eagles' 45-14 victory at Luther College (Iowa) on Labor Day weekend.

Krien recorded eight tackles and two quarterback sacks, registering his first collegiate interception late in the first quarter that led to the Eagles taking the lead for good on the ensuing possession.

“It was a great game and a domination on both sides of the ball,” Krien said of the Sept. 3 contest. “Our offense did a great job in keeping us off the field, and we did a great job in giving them the ball back. I think the highlight was after our offense committed a turnover, we forced one right back, which ultimately led to a touchdown. The interception was a pretty cool moment, and I definitely wasn't expecting my first one to come against an option team. But beggars can't be choosers, and I was incredibly happy and excited.”

So are UW-La Crosse fans, whose perennial playoff team of the 1990s seeks its first winning season since going 5-4 in 2007. Krien had 11 total tackles and led the team with three sacks during the team's 2-0 start.

However, it's taken a lot of time and energy on and off the field to prove he belongs, Krien said.

“I think the biggest change I've made has been in how much more I analyze and understand football,” he said. “You don't really get to that point until you've watched a lot of film and you become more of a student of the game. I'm still working on trying to react and play faster, because at linebacker you don't have much time to read and react before the play is already past you.”

Krien was a three-year captain at Badger and capped his prep career with his selection to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game.

He said that being a big-time contributor both ways helped him make a successful jump to the collegiate level.

“The transition from Friday Night Lights to Saturday afternoons was not easy by any means,” Krien said. “The atmosphere is completely different, and I think the toughest part for me was the time that it takes. In high school, you practice, watch a little film and go out and play on Fridays. At this level, it's a business and a job. You've got meetings, film study and on average you spend probably 30 to 40 hours per week dedicated to football. Trying to manage all of that with school and life has been incredibly challenging.

“Physically, the differences are pretty apparent,” he added. “The speed of the game, the physicality of every player and the skills they possess are what make this conference so good. So, that was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.”

Still, Krien's athletic ability and toughness have aided his progress and enabled him to continually increase his playing time for the Eagles.

“Playing offense at Badger is different than at most schools because the quarterback position is really just a glorified running back,” he said. “It requires the same physicality, if not more, so I think that if anything, the hitting and the physicality of the college game came the easiest to me, and it definitely helped me transition to playing linebacker in the last year.”

Making his mark in the rugged SLC also helped overcome the learning curve.

“We played good teams and quite a few good players in the SLC, but I think it was the playoff games we were a part of that helped prepare me for the WIAC,” Krien said. “Once you get into the playoffs, especially after the first round, you start playing some studs. Playing against teams that have 10 or 12 future college football players on their roster and going out there and trying to compete with them is a totally different experience, and I think it gave me the confidence to play in the WIAC.”

Krien played under current Badger coach Matt Hensler, while his father, Ed, was the defensive coordinator.

“My dad may not like to hear this, but playing quarterback was my favorite,” Krien said. “There's just something about leading a team down the field, making quick decisions and trying to put points on the board that brings out the most competitive side of me. That's not to say I don't love playing defense, because I do. They each require a different mind-set, which is what I loved about having the opportunity to play both, because it made me compete in so many different situations. I loved that.”

He also said two memories stand out among the many he created during his high school playing days.

“Beating Kenosha Bradford at home in the state quarterfinals always will be a special game to me because of how hard we played, how excited everybody was and how much fun we had,” he said. “That was truly the highlight of my high school experience and a night I will never forget. My favorite memory from high school football, though, was playing catch with my dad before every single game, giving him a high five and a hug before kickoff and having the opportunity to be coached by him. There is truly nothing like that experience. I will forever be grateful to have had that opportunity, and it is something we will always share.”

Krien said that football has been a family affair, and his family's support has meant the world to him.

“All my uncles played, my dad and uncle coached, my brother (Brady) played,” he said. “And growing up there was never any doubt that I would play. My dad has been my biggest influence in football because he always has balanced being my biggest fan and my biggest critic, but I think that has forced me to push myself and get more out of myself than I otherwise would have. My mom (Mary) is just great. In every way she is a rock star, and I'm really blessed to have the support system I have.”

And that's a big reason for why Krien, also a standout catcher and league Player of the Year as a senior for the Badgers, has realized his dreams and is where he wanted to be.

“I was looking at a couple of schools like UW-Eau Claire and St. Joseph's College in Indiana, which offered me a scholarship to play football down there,” said Krien, who is in the radiation therapy program and plans to graduate in May 2018 after an internship.

“But all along I knew I wanted to come to La Crosse. There was just something about the area, the education and the people here who made me want to become an Eagle. I don't think there are many places where you can get the quality of education, a great student-athlete experience and make the types of memories I've made here in La Crosse.”


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