Offensive Lineman, 1984-1988
To put it bluntly, Bob Kratch felt like crap. He ballooned up to 350 pounds, lacked energy and was headed for a diabetes’ diagnosis if he didn’t change.
The former Iowa and NFL offensive lineman ate all day and into the night. He became melancholy. Family and friends noticed.
Five years ago, he decided enough was enough. He dropped the chips and ice cream, and picked a healthy lifestyle. He moved down to 245 pounds, his weight at Mahwah (NJ) High during the early 1980s.
Kratch began selling the products that helped him reshape his life last year. He found them after the ups and downs of conventional dieting and exercising.
In addition to curbing his appetite, the nootropics aided brain health. He was concerned about that with all the studies related to concussions in football. He played during a time when guys shook off the cobwebs and got back on the field.
“All the abuse you put your body through in 21 years of football, it was time to get my life in order. A lot of guys fall into the rut after playing. It’s amazing when you live a healthier life and the joint pain goes down. You’re clearer. You have more energy,” he said.
Kratch and his wife, Kristi, an Iowa native, moved to the Coco Beach area in Florida last year. They owned and ran a retail furniture/interior design business near Minneapolis since shortly after he retired from the NFL in ’96. They sold it about five years ago.
While he enjoyed that, it’s more gratifying selling Elevate.
“I absolutely love it, helping a lot of people. It’s kind of a new path for me,” he said.
Kratch recommended it to former Hawkeye teammate and close friend, Jon Vrieze, who lost 50 pounds. Iowa football alumnus Jeff Koeppel also benefitted from the product.
The Hawkeyes pulled Kratch out of northern New Jersey in ’84. He visited Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, North Carolina and others. Those schools didn’t do it for him.
“At Notre Dame and Penn State, I felt like a number. Gerry Faust and Joe Paterno were visiting my high school, and the coaches that stuck out the most were coach (Hayden) Fry and coach (Kirk Ferentz),” Kratch remembered.
Fry turned around a bad program when he arrived at Iowa before the ’79 season. He would be replaced upon retirement 20 years later by Ferentz, who he hired as his offensive line coach in ’81.
Ferentz, now the program’s all-time winningest coach after breaking Fry’s record earlier this season, was 29 when Kratch arrived at Iowa.
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“Coach Ferentz had a great way of connecting with people. He had a great sense of humor, friendly, warm. You weren’t just a number. You were a person. You felt wanted,” Kratch said.
Kratch credits Ferentz with him making it to the NFL. He taught him how to pass block.
“That’s why the Giants drafted me. (Coach Bill) Parcels told me he knew I could protect the quarterback. I give a lot of thanks to coach Ferentz. At times it wasn’t easy. He’s a demanding coach,” Kratch said.
Iowa built a strong presence in New Jersey behind assistant coach Bernie Wyatt. He, along with Fry and Ferentz, convinced Kratch to join them.
After red shirting during his first fall, he pushed his way onto the depth chart in ’85. His first college start came in the classic game pitting the No. 1 Hawkeyes against No. 2 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium. Rob Houghtlin’s field goal as time expired gave Iowa a 12-10 victory.
“It’s funny. That’s the first time I met my wife’s parents. They took me out to dinner. I’d gotten them tickets to the game,” Kratch said.
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He felt very nervous before that contest. He would be stepping in for Kelly O’Brien, who had been hurt the week before.
On the eve of his first start, Kratch met up with former Hawkeye linebacker Kevin Spitzig at the Old Capitol Mall in downtown Iowa City.
“I can’t say exactly what he said. He’s kind of an intense linebacker. But basically he just told me that I didn’t need to have a bunch of respect for Michigan and just go after them,” Kratch said.
The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten title that season. Even a disappointing loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl couldn’t undo the great memories for Kratch.
“I’ll never forget that. I was a starter. I remember stepping out on the field and seeing the blue skies, the glitter, the grass. Those were good days,” he said.
Kratch went on to earn first-team all-Big Ten honors as a senior in ’88. He also captained the Hawkeyes that season. During his four years as a starter, they compiled a 35-12-3 overall record with a 22-7-3 mark in the Big Ten.
He was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl following his final season at Iowa. He joined teammates Marv Cook and Joe Mott in being selected during the third round of the ’89 draft.
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Kratch was living the dream playing for the hometown Giants. In his second season, they defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, to win Super Bowl XXV. He started at right guard.
Six years later, Kratch started four games for the New England Patriots during their march to Super Bowl XXXI, where they fell to Green Bay. That would be his final NFL season. He ended up playing in 105 contests with 71 starts in his eight campaigns.
“I feel grateful and fortunate to be a part of two Super Bowl teams. It’s just so special when you win a championship. As you get older, it just gets so much sweeter,” he said.
A family friend steered Kratch to Watertown, Minn. after his playing days were over. It was highlighted by country life, being a short drive to Minneapolis, and located not too far from Kristi’s family’s farm in Massena, Iowa.
The coupled raised three children – Colby, Nate and Mackenzie. Colby Kratch, who played at Toledo, served as a Michigan State graduate assistant in ’15, when the Spartans beat Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. He became a full-time assistant at Iowa State before this season.
“He was a big Hawkeye fan,” Bob said. “He just loves football. He was born to be a football coach. I wished they had some opportunities at the University of Iowa but you never know where life can bring you. But he’s really enjoying coach (Matt) Campbell and what they’re doing there.”
Bob admitted to strongly disliking the Cyclones during his playing days. He’s grown to appreciate what Campbell and his staff are building in Ames. He’s visited them and watched them work.
“It’s exciting to still be part of the game through my son. And maybe someday he’ll be a Hawkeye. You never know,” Bob said with a chuckle.
Bob returned to Iowa City in September for Fry Fest, where the event honored the Hawkeyes legendary coaching staff from the ’80s. It included future successful head coaches Ferentz, Bob Stoops, Barry Alvarez and Dan McCarney.
“I just sat there and it was like all of those life lessons being taught over again. There’s no greater coaching staff. It just brought me back to how special the University of Iowa was and still is,” he said.