As if it were meant to be, Grafton minister will make the famous jump during the Packers game Sunday — a day that is special to both him and the team
Scott Kruse, a pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Grafton, is taking a leap of faith this Sunday.
That’s when Kruse will travel to Green Bay for the Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game and, at halftime, make his own Lambeau Leap into the crowd. He will be only the second fan to get the chance to make the leap during a game.
“It is fantastic, especially with Detroit losing on Monday and the Packers pulling off a miracle win Sunday,” Kruse said.
It’s also meaningful, he said, because Sunday’s game will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Lambeau Leap by Packers strong safety Leroy Butler during a Dec. 26, 1993 game against the Los Angeles Raiders.
Even more important, Kruse said, it’s also his 17th wedding anniversary to his wife Beckie, who grew up near Green Bay and is a died-in-the-wool Packer Backer.
“All we need is a win now,” Kruse said.
Kruse, who came to St. Paul’s Church from Antigo in February, was selected for the honor earlier this month in the Ultimate Leap at Lambeau Field contest. He had signed up for the contest online months ago and, as he admitted, promptly forgot about it.
But in late November, his memory returned when he received an e-mail notification that his name was selected at random from 126,000 entries to be a finalist in the contest.
“Once I realized it was legitimate, I became really excited,” Kruse said.
On Dec. 3, he traveled to Green Bay to compete with seven other finalists for the chance to make the leap during a game.
The group met tight end Andrew Quarless, who talked about what it was like to make the leap and the player-fan interaction. They saw a video about good and bad leaps, and learned the history of the jump.
They toured the stadium, then took turns making a leap from the snow-covered field into the stands. Bret Eulberg, president of Robert Haack Diamonds — which along with Pick ’N Save sponsored the contest — judged the finalists on their efforts.
“It was fantastic to have Lambeau Field to ourselves,” Kruse said.
Of the eight finalists, he and a student at St. Norbert were the only two to make it up the wall, which Kruse estimated was about 6 feet, 5 inches high. A “jump-off” was held, Kruse said, and again both men made it up the wall.
But he had an edge, Kruse said. He researched the contest ahead of time and realized it wasn’t just ability but flair that would be considered by the judge.
“You need to make an impression,” he said. “I just played it up.”
Not only did Kruse finish his leaps with a flourish, spreading his arms in dramatic fashion, he also dressed the part. He wore an Aaron Rodgers jersey and some Packers cleats he picked up a few years ago. He also donned a “big, warm” hat made of sherpa-like material, prompting the announcement that he was “the winner by a hat.”
“I pumped my fist and was thrilled,” Kruse said. “I’m a competitor. I like competition.”
Kruse said that at 6-3 he was the tallest of the finalists, which may have given him an advantage.
It also helps that the 39-year-old knows how to jump. A Homestead High School graduate, he played on the Highlander basketball team, then played intramural ball at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon. While a seminary student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, he played basketball for the Concordia Preachers, which played some Division 2 and 3 teams.
Back then, he said, he could dunk the ball — and did.
“Those years are long gone,” he said.
Kruse said he’s not doing anything special to prepare for Sunday’s Lambeau Leap, just continuing his normal workouts — on the elliptical machine, doing jumping jacks, lifting weighs and stretching, “a lot of stretching” — at Form and Fitness in Grafton.
“I’m just going to go out there and do it,” he said. “I’ll make it, I’m sure. I’ll probably be doused in beer and catsup and mustard, but that’s OK.”
As part of his prize package, Kruse won on-field passes for before Sunday’s game, four box seats, a game-used football and a game jersey with his name emblazoned across the back.
He’s gotten a fifth ticket so his whole family — wife Beckie, daughters Lauren and Aneka and son David — will be present for his leap.
“They’re ecstatic,” Kruse said. “This is the first opportunity we will have to go to a Packers game together.”
His hopes for the game are shared by all of Packer nation.
“We’re hoping and praying Aaron Rodgers is healthy and able to come back,” he said. “It’ll be great to celebrate a win with the Green Bay Packers and their fans.
“I’m just looking forward to a great experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This isn’t something that happens to the average pastor.”
Image Information: SCOTT KRUSE, an associate pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Grafton, held a Bible and a football Tuesday as he practiced the Lambeau Leap at the parish school. Watching Kruse, who will take the leap during Sunday’s Packers vs. Steelers game in Green Bay, were (from left) his son David, Logan Werner, Kirsten Krause and his daughter Aneka. Photo by Sam Arendt