Offensive lineman Christian Krause has experienced many peaks and valleys in his football career.
A former standout with the Mount Douglas Rams, Krause helped guide the team to a historic third straight B.C. AAA championship in 2013, a feat never accomplished prior.
“I didn’t know anything other than winning until getting out of high school,” he says. “We only ever lost one game a year, and it was a pretty close-knit team.”
Not surprisingly, the six-foot-five, 300-pounder attracted interest from universities across Canada. He took in eight total visits through grades 11 and 12, but ultimately decided that Manitoba was the best fit for the 2014 season. He also had three former Mount Douglas teammates who were set to join him on the Bisons.
“I just fell in love with Manitoba,” he says. “There was good family vibes on the team and everyone had the desire to win.”
Krause was one of the top 100 players in Canada coming out of high school and had all the tools to be successful at the collegiate ranks. Unfortunately, he was hampered in part by a serious injury to his ACL.
He originally tore the ligament in grade 11 playing rugby and had surgery the following year. He then had a second surgery in his first year at the U of M, as he tried to push the injury a bit too much when it wasn’t completely ready.
“At first [the injury] was frustrating, but I learned over time that it’s going to take its course and it’s something that has to happen,” he says.
On the field, Krause had to adjust to not being the top guy for the first time in his career.
“It was a little bit of a slap in the face, I’m not going to lie,” he says. “It was different, but after week two I kind of figured it out and was like, yeah these guys are 24 years old, I’ve got to earn my place.”
At the end of his second year with Manitoba, Krause decided it was time to depart the U of M campus. A combination of factors including school, a desire for more playing time, as well as family matters influenced his decision.
Despite not getting on the field immediately and having to wait out his injury, Krause still matured as a player in both 2014 and 2015 with the Herd.
“I was kind of soft and I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he says. “I wasn’t a fighter going in, but leaving I definitely had a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove something to myself and every other coach out there.”
Despite his choice to leave, Krause knew he still wanted to play football, it was just a matter of where. Then, a conversation with long-time friend and former Mount Douglas teammate Armin Purewal changed everything.
Purewal pitched the idea of playing junior football for the Westshore Rebels of the British Columbia Football Conference. The team had struggled in the past, but was bringing in a number of former U SPORTS players and also had Shane Beatty – the former head coach of the Okanagan Sun – coming in as a strength and conditioning coach as well as defensive co-ordinator.
“[Armin] kind of showed me what they had to offer. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I saw that they had Shane Beatty and all these guys, and I thought I would be able to get my body right and still play,” Krause says.
“When I made the decision to come back, I called up [former Bison teammates] Jamel [Lyles] and Kent [Hicks] and all the boys and was like, this is the situation, let’s do this.”
With a roster full of players that were completely familiar with each other, the Rebels rolled. They played in back-to-back conference title games in 2016 and 2017, with the former leading all the way to the national final against Saskatoon.
Individually, Krause accomplished exactly what he set out to do. His body “never felt better” in his first year with the team, and he collected an All-Canadian award at seasons end. He repeated this feat in 2017, despite injuring the ACL and MCL in his other knee. He credits having to line up against players with U SPORTS experience at practice as a driving force behind his success on the field.
“It definitely made the games a hell of a lot easier. Having to line up against [former Bishop’s Gaitor] Jeremie Drouin and [Manitoba Bison] Kent Hicks every practice, it’s frustrating, because they’re very, very, very good,” he says.
“My confidence was so much higher going into games, because I was lining up against the best guys every practice.”
At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Krause knew it was time to try his luck at the university level again. A number of his teammates, including Hicks, offensive lineman Tyson Thompson and quarterback Scott Borden Jr. were also making the move, and they all felt that Manitoba was the best choice. Lyles was also there already, having made the move back the year prior.
“We definitely talked to each other and said that’s the movement. I had other coaches talking to me but I kind of just ignored them,” he says.
Going into the 2018 campaign, Krause is a few years wiser, having benefitted greatly from his time with the Rebels. He’ll be heading back to Manitoba in a month to start his rehab with head athletic therapist Lori Nickel, and is more motivated than ever.
“I understand schemes just from me having to coach myself and the other guys [at Westshore] and being forced to learn,” he says. “Definitely now, with some of the changes that have been made, I think Manitoba can be a very strong team.”