After 13 years, Jim Kleinsasser of the Minnesota Vikings has decided to call it a career, his body 'feeling somewhat good, and not walking away from the game with a limp'.
Minnesota Vikings' Jim Kleinsasser to call it a career
Jim Kleinsasser has spent the past 13 years bulldozing linebackers and defensive ends on NFL Sundays, the blue-collar battering ram for glamorous runners such as Robert Smith and Adrian Peterson.
He will throw his last block Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
One of the toughest of tough guys in the proud history of the Minnesota Vikings is calling it a career.
And it has been more than anyone could have imagined when the Vikings drafted him in the second round back in 1999.
"I've always kind of liked being under the radar and just going to work," Kleinsasser said.
"I don't know. I've just kind of liked being a normal guy."
Kleinsasser has been under the radar from the start, growing up in the small town of Carrington, North Dakota, going to college in his home state and getting overshadowed by quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the Vikings draft class of 2009.
He has worn many purple hats over the years, playing tight end and fullback, and often acting as an extension of the offensive line with his 6ft 3 ins, 273-pound frame.
Through it all, a player whose game was built on overpowering giants - and Bears and Lions and Packers - at the point of attack, play after play, Kleinsasser only suffered one major injury.
He missed all but one game in 2004 with a torn ACL, but has not missed a game since.
"He comes and he does everything you would ask him to do, and [is] not looking for the headlines," coach Leslie Frazier said.
"But, his importance to our football team and our offence is equal in a lot of ways to some of the star players that we have."
Kleinsassser's career has run the gamut of emotions, from the euphoria of two runs to the NFC title game to the heartbreak of teammate Korey Stringer dying of heatstroke in training camp in 2001.
He has seen the best and worst of Randy Moss come and go, Brett Favre rise and fall, and the Metrodome's roof collapse.
Kleinsasser caught 46 passes and scored four touchdowns in 2003, but has reached double digits in receptions just twice since then.
As the seasons have come and gone, he has morphed from a runner and pass catcher to almost exclusively a blocker, but that may have only increased his respect in the locker room and on the field.
"He's a Neanderthal man," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.
"He's just strong."
And he has been considering retirement for the past few years.
The thoughts first started coming in 2009, but then Favre arrived and led the Vikings to the NFC title game, where they lost to the Saints in overtime.
"I kind of thought, 'Hey, let's actually try to get this thing going'," Kleinsasser said. "So, you keep going on."
It has been anything but a fairy tale finish.
If the Vikings do not beat the Bears tomorrow, they will finish tied for the worst record in franchise history.
But Kleinsasser, who turns 35 in January, insists the struggles this season have nothing to do with his decision.
"I like the thought of leaving with the body still feeling somewhat good, and not walking away from the game with a limp," he said.
Few players are held in higher esteem in the Vikings' locker room.
"Oh man, I love Jimmy," said Percy Harvin, the wide receiver.
"He plays this game only for one reason, and that's his teammates and the love of the game. "
Said Shiancoe: "It's been an honour to play with him."
Kleinsasser has not carried the ball in eight years and has only one reception this season.
And his last touchdown came in 2007.
But if Frazier and the Vikings have their way, that will change tomorrow.
"No doubt about it," said Frazier, who then made a proclamation.
"I'm not letting out any secrets there. If we get down to the one [one-yard line], Chicago, you better stop No 40.
"We're going to find a way to try to get him in the end zone, if we can."