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Where are they now?: Karl Mecklenburg

03/01/2004, 12:00am CST
By Rob Litt

Where Are They Now?

There aren't many former Gophers who have had as decorated of a professional football career as legendary walk-on Karl Mecklenburg. A two-time second team All-Big Ten selection and 1982 Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Mecklenburg received the Carl Eller Award in 1982 given out to the Gophers' outstanding defensive player.

Drafted in the 12th round by the Denver Broncos in 1983, Mecklenburg worked his way from special teams player to Pro Bowl regular. Mecklenburg was named All-Pro five times to go along with his six Pro Bowl and three Super Bowl appearances. He played all seven defensive front positions throughout his career and often times played all seven in the same game. Many consider the former Gopher as a great candidate for the NFL's Hall of Fame.

Since retiring from football in 1995, Mecklenburg has concentrated his efforts on various business ventures as well as a powerful career as a volunteer. Karl and his wife, Kathi, have used their life experiences and stature in the Denver community to touch the lives of those less fortunate.

Mecklenburg recently spent some time with to talk about his memories as a Gopher, his thoughts on the current state of the program, as well as some fond memories of the NFL. Where has your post Gopher career taken you?

Karl Mecklenburg: After my days at Minnesota, I had a fun 12-year career with the Denver Broncos, where I had the opportunity to play in three Super Bowls and six Pro Bowls. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to build as a player and person from the lessons I learned at Minnesota. After retiring from football in 1995, my wife Kathi and I have remained in Denver, where we are raising our three children. To pass time, I am involved in a few business ventures but am very involved in various charitable organizations. Kathi and I have both served on the board of directors for "œPros With A Purpose". "œPros" is a Denver based organization that pairs homeless families with community mentor teams [volunteers]. We are also both very involved in an organization called "œGrassroots", which brings inner city kids out of their normal urban environment to Aspen, Colorado.

I have also done quite a bit of motivational speaking around the country. My seminars combine humor and inspiration and draw from my experiences in Minnesota and Denver as well as my recent days as a professional volunteer. If you are interested in Mecklenburg Motivation, please go to my website If you would like a promotional tape, email me, and I'll send one out. Thinking back to your days as a Gopher, which game/games stick out the most and why?

Mecklenburg: 1981 at Iowa when we beat Iowa, knocking them out of 1st place in the Big Ten, and we brought home the Pig. The 1982 game at Northwestern is also memorable. They beat us, winning their first Big Ten game in years. The fans tore down the goal posts and threw them into Lake Michigan. I personally was matched up with Chris Hinton and got two sacks on him. The Broncos drafted him in the first round the next year, and my effort against him was one of the reasons they also drafted me. What former teammates/coaches do you most often keep in contact with?

Mecklenburg: Mike Wynn was my D Tackle coach at the 'U'. We have kept in touch through the years. What does it mean to you to be a Golden Gopher?

Mecklenburg: I grew up being a Gopher fan. My dad brought me to games in the old brickhouse as a kid. I used to pretend I was Gopher TE Doug Kingsriter when I played flag football with my friends. Getting the chance to live out my childhood fantasy of wearing the Maroon and Gold and representing the 'U' was a dream come true for me. If there is one lesson you learned from a coach or teammate that stands out more than any other, what would it be?

Mecklenburg: Coach Wynn told me that if you can rush the passer, NFL teams will find a place for you on their roster. My first two years in Denver, I was a 3rd down pass rusher and a special teamer. That ability to rush the passer kept me around long enough for them to teach me linebacker. Who was the best teammate you ever played with and why?

Mecklenburg: Ken Delifiore and I practiced against each other every day in 1980. I ran the scout team, because I was new, a walk-on, and a redshirt. He was a team captain and an established senior starter. We went at it tooth and nail every practice, and not once did he ask me to back off. We made each other better, and I am still impressed remembering his work ethic. Who was the toughest player you ever played against and why?

Mecklenburg: I had the opportunity to line up against the best in the world, not only in the Big Ten but in the NFL. I tackled Franco Harris, Tony Dorsette, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, and Eric Dickerson, but the tough guy who stands out in my mind was Kevin Mack. I remember one particular play in Cleveland when Tom Jackson and I both hit Mack head on. His face mask was bent so badly that it was pushing his nose against the side of his face. I thought we had killed him, but he jumped up, ran to the sidelines, grabbed somebody else's helmet, and played the next play. If you could come back and suit up against one team, who would it be and why?

Mecklenburg: Michigan. I never held the Little Brown Jug. We beat Ohio State and Iowa but not the Wolverines. Do you still follow the Gophers? If so, what is a piece of advice you would give to the current staff and team?

Mecklenburg: I definitely do still follow the Gophers. If I were to give the team some advice, it would be to play 60 minutes. Finish the game strong. I am proud of the progress the Gophers have made lately. They play a tough, old-school brand of football and beat all the teams they should beat. They do have the talent to beat Michigan and Ohio State. To finally beat those teams, they have to have confidence and finish the game in all three phases as strong as they started it. There are no moral victories.

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Tag(s): Where Are They Now?