Breakfast with Karl, Number 29, a Hero
A couple of Saturdays ago, the 4 guys were having breakfast at a local bagel shop. It started as one of our typical Saturday mornings discussing life, theology, politics, music and anything significant that happened in our lives over the prior week. After a while in strolled Karl in his wheelchair. We invited him to join us at our table. Karl came over and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Karl Kassulke, number 29.” We talked about the Vikings, life and golf. Bob said he’s not good at golf – he just digs the club into the dirt. Jeph said he has a hard time with the windmills – trying to get it just right. We laughed and shared some time together. Before long we all had to leave to get back to our Saturday duties.
We first met Karl a couple of years ago some time in the fall. It was in the same bagel shop in Minnesota. He came in wearing an NFL jacket and with the Minnesota Vikings doing so poorly, we made some light-hearted comments. Karl said he use to play with the Minnesota Vikings. Before he could say his name, I realized who he is – Karl Kassulke – defensive safety for the Minnesota Vikings from 1963 to 1972. I tried not to look like a bumbling, star struck idiot. Karl played for the Vikings at a time when the defense was known as the Purple People Eaters. They were amazing to watch. In 1973 on the way to Vikings training camp Karl was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
After meeting Karl the first time I searched for a copy of his book. It has been out of print for a while but I finally found a copy at the local library. The book is simply titled “KASSULKE .” The first part of the book talks about the hilarious antics at the Vikings training camp. I laughed out loud reading this part. The second part of the book is about the motorcycle accident, how he married his nurse and his journey to faith in Christ. Ten years after the motorcycle accident, Karl was quoted as saying: “Honest to God, I’m in this wheelchair, but I finally found what life is about, and I’m content … I said content, and I’m serious! Playing football and raising the roof kept me going, but every night now, before I go to sleep, I remember how glad I am to be where I am today. You see, being in a wheelchair is just an inconvenience, but not knowing God is a handicap.” Karl is my hero.
Driving home from breakfast that morning I had a smile on my face. I completely forgot to go to the bank. When I got home I called my mom, who considers herself the #1 Viking fan, and told her who I just had breakfast with – Karl Kassulke, number 29.