Merv Krakau’s (pronounced CROAK-er) bulldog aggressiveness at defensive end made him one of the finest defensive players in the history of the Cyclone football program and helped him become one of the top defensive players in the NFL in the 1970s.
Krakau, a native of Guthrie Center, Iowa, started receiving attention for his exploits on the gridiron when he was moved to defensive end by ISU head coach Johnny Majors late in his sophomore season in 1970. At 6-3, 230 pounds, Krakau had the size and toughness to be a successful end. In 1971, Krakau registered 87 tackles, including six for loss, as ISU earned its first-ever trip to a bowl game with a Sun Bowl appearance. Krakau entered his senior season in 1972 as the team’s defensive leader. He did not disappoint, racking up 90 tackles while throwing enemy ball carriers for 88 yards in losses. He also had seven knocked-down passes and recovered three fumbles. Krakau showed the nation his outstanding ability against the third-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in one of the most memorable games in school history. Krakau registered 11 tackles, two sacks, caused and recovered two fumbles, as the Cyclones ended NU’s 24-game Big Eight winning streak with a 23-23 tie. Krakau was named Big Eight Player of the Week and national lineman of the week for his outstanding play.
Krakau garnered first-team all-Big Eight accolades and was named a third-team All-American after pacing the Cyclones to the Liberty Bowl in his senior campaign. He was the first Cyclone on the defensive side of the ball to attain All-America status.
Krakau waited until the 14th round of the 1973 NFL Draft when the Buffalo Bills selected him. Bills head coach Lou Saban had noticed his skills in the Senior Bowl. Despite his late draft selection, Krakau made the Bills’ roster and impressed the coaches enough to earn the opening day start after switching to linebacker. Krakau played six seasons in the NFL for the Bills and New England Patriots. In 1976, Krakau started every game for Buffalo, leading the team in tackles (132) and recovering six fumbles.
Krakau, who played one season in the USFL for the Tampa Bay Bandits in 1983, is a member of the Iowa High School Athletic Association Football Hall of Fame.