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Where are they now? LB Rich Kraynak

Rich Kraynak 1920 052621

Well, it's not like Rich Kraynak didn't know anything about the Eagles when they chose the linebacker in the 1983 NFL Draft.

Raised in Philadelphia's shadow, the Chester County borough of Phoenixville, Sunday afternoons in the fall at the Kraynak home were spent watching the Birds.

"When I was a kid, the Eagles struggled a little bit. And then, in the late '70s, they got a lot better when Dick Vermeil came along. I was a (Bill) Bergey fan, (Ron) Jaworski, (Harold) Carmichael, Wilbert Montgomery, all those guys," Kraynak says.

"I actually thought I was going to get drafted by Seattle because they were in touch with me the most out of any team all the way up to the Draft. I kind of got surprised when the Eagles called. It was pretty exciting at the time, though."

An eighth-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh, Kraynak joined a few veteran linebackers – Frank LeMaster, Jerry Robinson, and Reggie Wilkes – who had put in their time and were willing to offer advice.

"Frank was probably a big influence," Kraynak says. "We all got along and they helped. We had a pretty good rapport as a group. And then friendwise, (Jody) Schulz and (Mike) Reichenbach were there. We were pretty good friends at that time."

Kraynak also had some family and friends on hand when the rookie debuted at the Vet.

"It was pretty exciting. I did play major college (games) at Pitt, so we were always in the spotlight. We were pretty good back then in the late '70s and early '80s with (quarterback Dan) Marino and all those guys that made the Hall of Fame," Kraynak says. "But the Eagles was a whole different scene. And obviously the venue, it was odd being in front of the home crowd. A lot of people there knew you, being from the area. It was pretty special."

In 1986, after three seasons under Marion Campbell, Kraynak and his teammates were introduced to their new head coach, Buddy Ryan, who, as the defensive coordinator, had just helped guide the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl XX title.

"I guess you didn't know what to expect. Buddy had a whole different approach: hard work and discipline, a different style," Kraynak says. "Obviously, that happens in pro sports. You have to go with what the program is. But we got used to it after a while.

"Buddy took the team to the next level over the next couple years. But like I said, he was just a different coach and you play for a lot of coaches over your career. I guess that's part of the expectation, especially in pro sports."

Missing 10 games during that 1986 season because of a torn ligament in his hand that required surgery, Kraynak spent four of his five years in the NFL with the Eagles. He's proud of his contributions to Philadelphia's defense and special teams.

"From a playing standpoint, I see it once in a while, returning a blocked punt by Bill Cowher for a touchdown (in the 1984 season opener) against the Giants," Kraynak says. "The defense was always rated pretty well. That was one thing we were proud of. We had a lot of good players on the team.

"I think the entire time I was there, our defense was one of the better defenses in the NFL. I enjoyed that. And I was glad I got the opportunity. I got in the spotlight and was able to meet a lot of good people, a lot of good friends. It's something that most people don't get to experience."

For nearly 30 years, Kraynak has experienced plenty in the business world working for FedEx. Beginning as a front-line supervisor, he has worked his way up to the senior management level and runs a large distribution center in Harrisburg.

"Obviously, FedEx is a huge corporation, a great company," Kraynak says. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's a fast-paced business. When I first got in, it was that way, and it's been that way all the way through. But it's been almost 30 years, so I've must have liked it, I guess. And when you corollate that to sports, sports is go, go, go, go, go. And that's how this business is."

Since the pandemic began, FedEx's business has also understandably been "go, go, go, go, go."

"The last year and a half have been extremely busy. We've seen growth rates over 30 percent. E-commerce over the last 15 months or so has surpassed expectations," Kraynak says. "We're a few years ahead in e-commerce than what was forecasted before the pandemic.

"Obviously, last year changed a lot of people's habits with buying. When the Covid crisis came, brick-and-mortar (stores) shut down, and everybody ordered online. That's been pretty strong, actually, and it hasn't stopped. We don't expect it to stop. We expect the growth to continue.

Making his home near Harrisburg, Kraynak and his wife, Barb, have three adult children: Janelle, Rick, and Troy, and a granddaughter.

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