Gone from coaching for a season and gone from the only NFL team he ever knew for eight years, the image of the relentless Tim Krumrie still sticks to Bengaldom like his foot that stuck in the Super Bowl quagmire all those years ago.
Also Tuesday, he also just happened to surface as the leader in the Bengals.com Hall of Fame semifinal voting on the Web site by appearing on 72.6 percent of the ballots. Voting continues through April 20 to cut the list of 31 to the 10 finalists as Krumrie, the two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle, led a field headed by Super Bowl teammates James Brooks (72 percent) and Cris Collinsworth (70.7), as well as career interception leader Ken Riley with 69 percent. Krumrie's coach, Sam Wyche, rounded out the top five at 62.6 percent and that's a good place to start.
It turns out that Krumrie's head coach in Hartford is Jerry Glanville, Wyche's arch enemy from the old AFC Central and those very personal scrimmages with the Oilers.
"Now don't go talking about that. I haven't even gone to work for him yet, so don't go get him mad," Krumrie chided Tuesday evening. "We had some great battles with them, didn't we? Sooner or later in this business you usually end up working with guys you worked against. If you have to, he's my kind of guy to work for. I think we see winning football the same way. Tough, get after it, play hard. He's got a Harley, too."
Glanville calls Krumrie one of the top three defensive line coaches in the game, but at the moment he's just happy to be the only pro line coach in Steamboat Springs, Colo. When no NFL team came calling the past two offseasons after his contract ran out with the Chiefs following 2009, he and wife Cheryl retreated 8,000 miles up to their mountain home.
"Yeah, we've got TV and we've got computers, all the luxuries," he said. "But cars aren't going 100 miles per hour. You can hear the birds. You can hear a dog once in awhile. We've got neighbors and you can see them if you look over to the next mountain. We've made great friends with people here in town and there's all kinds of good people. You can be sitting on a ski lift next to someone who won a gold medal two years ago. But they just treat you like a regular guy."
Which is why Krumrie and Cincinnati hit it off right from the get-go when he came barreling out of the University of Wisconsin in the 10th round with rage, grit and a cauliflower ear, a gift from his wrestling days that helped make him the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. After playing his way into Bengals lore for 12 seasons with the most famous broken leg this side of John Wilkes Booth and Joe Theismann, he coached the defensive line for the next eight years before leaving in the shuffle with mentor Dick LeBeau after the 2002 season.
All the while he was the guy next door that would give you a wrench a few hours after he put the wrench in some running game. He moved to Buffalo and later Kansas City, but there has never been a doubt where the heart of this lion lies. He came back last year to visit when the Bengals played the Saints and it was the first time he watched from the stands. When he chatted with Bengals president Mike Brown, football rarely came up.
"We talked. We told some stories. It was good to see him and to be back," Krumrie said. "Whenever we came to play here and I was on the bus coming in, it was always fun to see Cincinnati again. It was great being with the first team in the new stadium and it was a fun place to live and play. The people are great. This is my identity. I'm a Bengal. Whenever people stop and talk, that's what it is. I'm a Bengal and that's just the way it is."
Krumrie is best known for not missing a game after suffering one of the most horrific injuries ever in Super Bowl XXIII at the end of the 1988 season, grotesque broken bones that put a steel rod in his leg. But he didn't miss a game for the rest of his career and when he roared out of Riverfront Stadium on the Harley the Bengals gave him at halftime of the 1994 finale, only Riley (207), linebacker Reggie Williams (206), and quarterback Ken Anderson (192) had played more than his 188 games. His streak of 122 straight is fourth-longest in club history behind punters Lee Johnson (169) and Pat McInally (149), and Williams (137).
That same burn to compete that fueled his rehab drove Krumrie in semi-retirement. Krumrie, a month shy of 51, not only took up skiing, but he ran a half marathon in an hour and 42 minutes and buzzed through a 110-mile race on a bike in 7.5 hours. The man who once weighed 269 pounds is now at 225 and looking for more. Wife Cheryl, an accomplished athlete herself, just got done with Riding The Rockies, a bike race that consumed a couple of states and about a week.
With daughter Kelly teaching at a Montessori school and son Dexter finishing up college, the empty-nesters are buzzing. Krumrie also hooked up with some neighbors who were guides for elk hunts and he helped them with the horses. He didn't bag an elk this year, and maybe that's the point.
"You can hunt elk and bike and run and work out only so much," he said. "I'm a football coach. It's what I do. I really missed training camp. That was tough. I love training camp."
How many guys say that? Of course, how many 10th-rounders drove a first-round pick like Dave Rimington absolutely batty that first training camp? Krumrie made the team because of training camp. So when word filtered down from the mountain last summer that there was an NFL player and coach in town, an offer came to help coach the high school team.
"It was great," he said. "A lot of it was doing what I did before; helping with the practice cards and working with the defensive line. But I also worked the other side of the ball and that was fun working on protections and teaching the other side of it. It was nice to be able to give back to the community. With the schedule you have (in the NFL), it's real hard to do when you're coaching and we felt good we were able to help out the school and the kids."
The Hall of Fame vote is nice, he says. But as comfortable as Krumrie is in the mountains, praise makes him itch like he's in a big city.
"We don't think too much about that stuff," he said. "But I was there a long time. It's nice the fans remember. I guess I left a little something."
TOP TEN BENGALS.COM HALL OF FAME VOTING
(SEMIFINALS end April 20)
» NT Tim Krumrie, 72.6 percent (of ballots)
» RB James Brooks, 72
» WR Cris Collinsworth, 70.7
» CB Ken Riley, 69
» HC Sam Wyche, 62.6
» S David Fulcher, 59.8
» CB Lemar Parrish, 57.3
» RB Corey Dillon, 53.8
» G Max Montoya, 52.9
» K Jim Breech, 49.7