A big arrival at Portland State
John Krahn is a grain elevator of a fellow, a behemoth who blocks the sun as well as defenders trying to make plays against his team.
The Riverside, California, native is now property of Portland State football, all 6-10 and 400-some pounds of him.
Krahn, who turned 21 on Jan. 28, is a transfer from Riverside JC who signed with the Vikings in December. He is on campus and will be among the candidates to start on the offensive line when PSU begins "spring" ball on Feb. 20.
The young giant was once described in an article in USA Today as "the largest man in football," though that has not been certified.
"I don't have a Guinness world record, or anything like that," he says good-naturedly.
But Krahn is certainly going to be the biggest player ever to wear a Viking uniform. The biggest prior to Krahn's arrival, at least in recent years, are sophomore O-lineman Tyson Pauling, who is 6-5 and 310, and Desmoun Thompson, listed at 6-7 and 310, who played from 2014-17.
Krahn wears size-18 shoes and offers a grip that swallows you up in a handshake. He likes to ride dirt bikes and ATVs and shoot clay pigeons, but most of all, he likes to play football. You won't have to worry about him fraternizing with opponents, either.
"I'm a very aggressive player," Krahn says. "I don't like players from other teams. I play football with the mentality, 'I don't like you; you don't like me.' Sometimes, it does get out of hand, though. I've worked a lot on that."
Krahn had only "two or three" personal foul penalties last season at Riverside JC.
"I've gotten a lot better," he says. "In high school, I got ejected from three games."
Krahn isn't a bully, though. He seems a bit of a gentle soul, in fact, and a young man who enjoys the camaraderie a football team offers.
"John was a team captain for us last year, well-respected and liked amongst his peers and our staff," says Mustafa Johnson, Krahn's offensive line coach at Riverside the past two seasons.
Krahn's skills and enormous frame drew interest from a number of four-year colleges, but only Portland State offered a scholarship. Why?
"I have trouble growing people," quips PSU coach Bruce Barnum, no small man himself. "I don't need to grow John. He's already there. I've never seen anybody that big."
But size alone wasn't why the Vikings offered a ride to Krahn.
"I like how he moves," Barnum says. "After meeting him and his dad on their recruiting trip, I could tell he was a good fit. We decided to take him."
John's father, also John (but he goes by Rob), stands 6-5. Rob Krahn works as an engineer for Kaiser Permanente. John's late mother, Cindy, was 6 foot. His older sister, Miranda, is 6 foot. He has an uncle on his paternal side who is 6-11. John inherited his size.
"I was always a big kid," he says. "I've been taller than any of my classmates since second grade. When I was in fifth grade, I started being taller than the teachers. I never really noticed, but people started pointing it out to me. That was crazy."
When you're as big as Krahn, you stick out.
"I never got bullied, but I was held to a different standard," he says. "I was bigger than the other kids. Administrators and school security always looked at me. If there was an altercation or words exchanged, I'd be the one they looked at, even though I might not have done anything."
Krahn always weighed in too heavy to qualify for Pop Warner football. He played basketball through his freshman year in high school, then broke his leg twice in a manner of months. That was the end of hoops.
He was 6-5 and 350 pounds as a freshman at Martin Luther King High in Riverside. By his senior year of football, he was 6-10 and 440. By the time he graduated the following spring, Krahn weighed in at 500.
Other than football, "I didn't do much," he says. "I was an inside kid, mostly. In high school, you hang out at people's houses and do nothing. I was overeating, not knowing how nutrition worked."
Krahn was too big and out of shape to do much damage in football.
"I didn't play that much," he says. "Honestly, I wasn't that good. I didn't know the techniques and footwork and other stuff that went into it. I didn't really start understanding the game until I got to junior college."
But Krahn found he enjoyed himself on the football field.
"As a freshman, I thought you played football because you were big," he says. "I learned it was supposed to be fun, that you have a group of guys who want to do this, not because they feel like they have to. That's the mentality I've had since then."
Krahn wanted to play college football upon his graduation from high school in 2016, but failed to meet NCAA academic qualifying standards, so he took a semester of science classes at Georgia Prep Sports Academy. He did not play for the school's football team so as not to affect his college eligibility.
"But I was able to be around the team, see a new part of the country and learn different playing styles," he says. "It added to my knowledge of the game."
Krahn enrolled at NCAA Division II Lincoln University in Missouri but left after spring term, feeling it wasn't the right fit. He returned home to Riverside to play for the hometown JC team and Johnson, with whom he built a bond.
"Mustafa Johnson is a great coach," Krahn says. "I saw the man for two years straight almost every day. We worked on everything. He taught me the game."
Krahn was a two-year starter at tackle for the Tigers, who went 11-1 last season. From the time he started to the time he left Riverside JC, he dropped more than 100 pounds. Krahn ended last season playing at 390.
"John did a fantastic job for us," Johnson says. "He came into our program at 490 and worked hard to change his body. He already had some of the leadership skills. He's a good kid from a good family, so there were some things in place. But he came in, worked his butt off and earned a lot of respect for his work ethic and how well he played. He's a physical kid and he plays really hard.
"Even before he got to us, John would do the lifting and the running and the training. The biggest thing for him was being disciplined with his nutrition and making good decisions with his diet. That was his biggest struggle, like with a lot of big guys.
"He committed himself to getting better. As he saw some results, it fired him up a little bit. He thought, 'I'm going to see this thing through.'"
Krahn says his sophomore season at Riverside was the most enjoyable so far.
"I was surrounded by the greatest group of guys, especially in the O-line," he says. "They were my brothers, some of my best friends, and are to this day."
Matt Leunen is in his eighth year on the PSU coaching staff, currently serving as offensive coordinator and O-line coach. Leunen helped convince Barnum to take a chance on Krahn.
"I was impressed with the way he moves," Leunen says. "His body can bend. He's flexible. He has been trained well at Riverside. His size did not scare me at all when I saw the abilities."
Krahn says his recruiting visit to Portland State in December sold him. Prior to that, he knew little of Viking football.
"I guess I was thinking, 'I'm better than this,'" he says. "But being here now, I don't think I'm better than anybody on this team. There's a lot of great talent here.
"On my visit, the coaches showed me what Portland is. It sunk in that this could be the place for me."
Only a month into his time at Portland State, Krahn has made an impression. He weighs 408, but the PSU coaches expect he'll lose some of that.
"I think he'll be most comfortable at about 370," Barnum says, "and we'll get him there."
"He has transitioned really well," Leunen says. "He has worked hard in the weight room, and he is getting a lot of extra workouts in. With spring ball, he'll lose 20 to 25 pounds pretty easily on the field."
The Vikings return three concensus starters on the O-line. Leunen says he'll begin Krahn at tackle, though Barnum says he sees him as a potential candidate at guard, too.
"He'll get a chance to win a starting job, without a doubt," Leunen says. "I've had that conversation with John. I told him, 'You've played JC ball the past two years. We're bringing you in expecting you to contribute right away. You'll start in the back of the line, and everything you get will be earned.' But he doesn't want anything handed to him."
Says Krahn: "Coach Leunen has the same mind-set as Coach Mustafa. We're going to have the same game plan of working to make myself a better player."
Johnson predicts big things for Krahn.
"I think you guys got a real good one up there," he says. "John is just starting to hit his stride. I only wish we'd had more than two years with him. I have no doubt that he's going to get things done in Portland. He's fired up about the support he's getting from the staff. You can hear in his voice he's excited and motivated.
"John has talent on top of work ethic. He's changing that body to give him the chance to do things. He's going to be a really good football player for Portland State."
Krahn hopes so. He'd love to play some day in the NFL.
"If football is to continue after college," he says, "I wouldn't turn it down. But my main goal is to get an education. I want to get my degree here."
Krahn is majoring in criminology, with a career in law enforcement in mind.
"I want to work in Riverside County," he says. "The county is so large that it borders Arizona and goes all the way into the mountains. You can be in a variety of areas if you want to. I want to be a patrol officer and maybe move my way up to being a detective."
For now, Krahn will focus on football and school. At some point, he'll find time for some outdoor pursuits.
"In Riverside, I went into the desert riding ATVs almost every weekend for the thrill of going fast," he says. "Up here, it's a lot different. There are trees here. There ain't no trees in California that are going to stop you from going fast.
"I like doing clay shooting. I like going out with friends and shooting guns and blowing stuff up."
Leunen laughs at the thought.
"He's a great kid, very sociable," the PSU coach says. "He's a big gear-head. He loves cars. There are no dull moments talking to him."
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