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BOBCATS 150 – TOP 50: Steve Kracher


Bill Lambert

Steve Kracher was tough to tackle, and his rushing records reflect that

We look at the 25 players that Bobcat fans and a blue panel of longtime MSU football watchers ranked 26th through 50th in the quest to determine the program’s all-time players. In this segment of the countdown, players are listed in alphabetical order. You can find details here and a directory here.

Steve Kracher, RB, 1972-75

ALL-TIME TEAM: 2000 Billings Gazette All-Time Team

HONORS: 1st All-America Team and 1st All-Big Sky Team in 1975, 1st All-Big Sky Team in 1974

TO LOOK CLOSER: There’s a lot to know about Steve Kracher’s career at Montana State.

He rushed for 2,979 yards in the Blue and Gold, the most in Bobcat history through 2002 and remains third in school history. He did so with the ninth run in school history and without having a top 10 overall in a season in MSU history. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry in his career, second by all Bobcat.

But there is one thing that is difficult to understand from a contemporary point of view: Kracher’s famous dead leg.

“When you tried to tackle him, he gave you a dead leg,” many teammates and observers say of his running style. And it’s hard to fathom what that means, so here’s how teammate Rick Vancleeve — a freshman scout team member during Kracher’s senior season — describes him. “You’re going to tackle him and that leg is there and then when you hit him it’s like it’s not.”

Known for a combination of speed and poise early in his career, Kracher overcame some obstacles early in his days as a Bobcat. On the one hand, grope. “Cliff Hysell was a defensive coach, but he took me aside and showed me (proper ball-carrying technique). And I never had a problem again,” Kracher said. Opportunity posed another problem, as Wayne Edwards (839 yards in 1972) and Don Bagley (498 yards) each entered the 1973 season, Kracher’s second campaign, entrenched as tailback mainstays. In 1973, the best offensive season in Montana State history at that time, all three tailbacks played terrific football. Edwards gained 894 yards, Bagley 591, and Kracher 468. As a junior in 1974, however, Kracher broke out. He gained 1,034 yards, while seniors Edwards (422) and Bagley (216) also contributed.

As a senior, Kracher was even better. He gained 1,387 yards in 10 games, still fourth in MSU history. Despite Kracher’s incredible work, the Cats went 5-5 in 1975. He finished his career that fall with 2,979 career yards, a Bobcat record that stood for nearly two decades.

FROM LEGENDARY ATHLETIC TRAINER CHUCK KARNOP: “You would go and hit him and there’s nothing there, never any weight on that leg. He’s never, ever been hit very hard. And for his ability to run him (inside), Steve Kracher was the opposite of (some He knew where the ground was. There was a million guys going to jump all over the place, and Steve didn’t. He knew when to get off. He was so fluid. Like so many running backs could make a ton of moves, but he rarely dropped his shoulder, and if he saw a linebacker, he walked away from him, while other guys looked for contact.

FROM HIS TEAMMATE JOE JOHNSON: “Steve Kracher was an outstanding player, and I loved being on the field and being an offensive lineman when Steve was playing running back. If he had a little hole, he went through it. I never remember just one person tackling him. He would give someone his dead leg and they would slide on it. He was so hard to tackle.

FROM TEAM MATE RICK VANCLEEVE: “He was one of the toughest guys in the world and one of the nicest guys in the world. I remember Coach Holland once said, ‘We’ve never done this before, but you notice that Steve is not in a meeting today. I’m not going to hit Kracher in practice anymore. Everything was pretty much live in practice back then, and there was no (recoil) or anything. There was so much respect for him, he went so strong and he always got beat up, so that was how it was going to be.