Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Rare Vintage: Harrison Smith & Paul Krause Talk Cars & Careers

ELKO NEW MARKET, Minn. – On a blustery January day, temps having dipped well into the negatives, Harrison Smith pushes open the pole barn's door.

We shuffle carefully behind him, a drift of warm air drawing us inside. As my eyes adjust from the glistening white snow to a sprawling, softly lit room, we're welcomed by Vikings Legend Paul Krause.

The Hall of Famer now is the curator, per se, of the building he purchased 10 years ago and has developed into an automotive archive accentuated by a Vikings time capsule. He invites Smith to peruse the space that tells the story – in a non-chronological fashion – of Krause's career.

Smith, who's recently wrapped up his 12th NFL season, is making the long-anticipated visit before heading back to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the offseason.

"This would definitely be somewhere I'd spend a lot of time," Smith says, looking around.

Along one garage wall hang framed photographs of Vikings Legends with whom Krause played during his glory days; in the middle of the top row, of course, is a photo of Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant, who passed away just last spring.

The floor is covered mainly by giant scraps of turf, and Vikings memorabilia is everywhere you look. There's a vintage Norseman trash can autographed by Ed White – many artifacts are autographed – and purple wool blankets hung over nearby railings. A sparkling suit jacket, completely covered with purple-and-gold sequins, hangs on a pillar near the center of the room, and a large purple banner that reads 1971 NFC CENTRAL CHAMPIONS, which at one time was displayed at Winter Park, now drapes from the main ceiling.

View photos of Vikings Safety Harrison Smith visiting Vikings Legend Paul Krause, and seeing his vintage collection of cars and football memorabilia.

Photographs in mismatched frames chronicle moments of Krause's journey: a team photo from the 1963 Iowa Hawkeyes, his senior year at the university; a picture of Krause and Grant in the early days of his Vikings career, in which both are sporting sharp haircuts and high-cut denim shorts.

"I like those shorts," Smith quips, pointing at Krause's long legs in the black-and-white snapshot.

Photographs span 70 years and countless memories.

"Even in the john, we've got photos," Krause laughs. "They're all over the place."

He moves some large photos to reveal one pinned to the wall with blue thumbtacks, gesturing for Smith to take a look.

In the aged photo, a young Krause sits in the driver's seat of a rust-red rat rod, his arm draped casually over the white upholstery.

"I've gotta show you this. My brothers made it for me. My first car," Krause tells Smith proudly. "I was a senior in high school, and I drove that [from Michigan] to Iowa and back. Man, I loved that car."

Smith leans in to examine the image, then asks, "Are those twin carbs on the top? Pretty sweet."

Watching Smith and Krause visit, it's easy to forget one is a Hall of Famer and the other is likely headed to Canton down the road.


Smith is dressed in a black hoodie, off-white sweatpants and sneakers, and he carries a plain white coffee tumbler. Krause fits the same nondescript mold, wearing blue jeans, a flannel long-sleeved button-up and black vest emblazoned with a Vikings Legends logo.

They may have been born nearly 50 years apart from one another, but the similarities run deep.

Smith and Krause bear the same unassuming nature. They speak softly, often requiring the other to repeat himself. They share a passion for vintage cars and for the history of the game they both love. Two of the top safeties in NFL history, even both wearing 22 on their Vikings jerseys.

"You would have loved that guy," Krause tells Smith, pointing to another photo of Grant. "You would have loved to play for him."

He recalls playing 12-game seasons, rather than the 17 Smith has grown accustomed to, and the differences in training camp practices today versus the 1960s. Krause hands his original Hawkeyes helmet to Smith, then the purple Vikings one with a matte gray facemask.

Smith turns the helmet over in his palm and observes the sort of webbed material inside that's since morphed into the well-padded and protective headgear used by the modern NFL.

"The pads weren't much better," Krause quips.


The Vikings Legend proudly shows Smith a variety of vehicles parked safely in the warmth of the garage, away from salted, slushy roads: a Vikings-themed rat rod, built by Krause and his friends over a six-week period last spring, that's covered in gold-inked autographs; a 1949 Ford convertible, black with painted red flames crawling across the hood; a cream-colored 1985 Porsche 928; and a dusty blue 1963 Cadillac convertible.

"I like this interior. It's plush," Smith said, sliding into the driver's seat of the latter. "I've got a '66 Chevelle … but it's tough to park these things nowadays, isn't it?"

"It's almost 22 feet long," laughs Krause. "But she runs like a top."

Then, the queen bee: a red 1986 Porsche 935.

"Is that a favorite?" Smith asked, fawning over the sleek sports car.

"Hah! That's the favorite," Krause responds, to which Smith nods in acknowledgement.

Beyond the cars and the Vikings memorabilia, there are countless other gems that include a photograph signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a vintage scoreboard from a gymnasium and a tattered red jersey inscribed with "1964 Senior Bowl MVP." Several antique bicycles are suspended from the ceiling, and vintage oil cans are stacked into small pyramids throughout the garage.


Krause leads Smith to a shining, red, custom-built motorcycle named "The Interceptor" in honor of Krause holding the NFL interceptions record with 81 picks over his career. The believed-to-be-unbreakable record Krause set in his final season (1979) is printed, along with other career accomplishments, in silver ink on the curve of the fuel tank. Over the years, Krause also worked to collect the signatures of 130 fellow Hall of Famers on the bike's body.

Smith admires not only the motorcycle and workmanship but also the years of NFL accomplishments highlighted on its pristine frame. While Smith knows his 34 career interceptions don't compare to Krause's mark, it's incredible to look at the pair and consider the impact they've made on a single franchise.

Together, the two have combined for 350 starts (including regular and postseason) for the Vikings, who have played 1,021 games all-time.

Smith stops to study a moped-style Cushman Eagle that belonged to a 15-year-old Krause, then a soap box derby car created in 1948, complete with Chevrolet wheels.

"It's like The Little Rascals," Smith chuckled, fondly referencing the 1994 remake.

Krause wraps up the informal tour in a room set off to the back, its wood-paneled walls covered in Vikings jerseys of the likes of Fran Tarkenton, Wally Hilgenberg, Bobby Bryant, Tommy Kramer, Chuck Foreman and Jim Marshall.

"I wasn't expecting all the sports memorabilia; I don't know why. I was just thinking cars initially," Smith says. "But this is really cool. I like the pictures of the guys he's played with and played for – Bud Grant – and hearing [Krause] talk about Jerry Burns and how he got from Iowa to [Washington] to here."


True to his nature, Smith thoughtfully takes in the space again, perhaps reflecting on the amount of history housed in one simple space, off the beaten path in rural Minnesota.

"This is a special place," he said. "It's a fascinating place, and it's cool that Paul's been able to gather these over the years and put them on display for other people to enjoy. And to kind of see the history of his life and these other things intertwined into it … it's awesome.

"Except for the helmets," Smith added, laughing. "The helmets are not awesome. But no, this is special."

Smith isn't sure what comes next. Will he play for the Vikings in 2024, a 13th season in purple? Will he hang up the cleats and call it a career? Will he play professionally elsewhere? Time will tell.

One thing the father of two does know, though, is that one day he'll be in Krause's shoes, his legacy with the Vikings already well-written.

And when that day comes, he wouldn't mind a space just like this one.

"I don't have as many cool things as Krause has," Smith says, "but stuff like this is kind of priceless, in my opinion. It's a great way to spend your time. A different hobby once you're done with the game. It's fantastic.

"I'll have to bring you an artifact for you [when I'm back in Minnesota]," Smith tells Krause, then adds with a grin: "If you don't like it, you can put it in your giveaway pile."