Kluwe's a Renaissance man for the Internet age

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2011 - 11:07 PM

Chris Kluwe is a musician, a gamer, an entertaining Twitter voice -- and a superb punter.

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One of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's many side projects is being the bassist and manager for his band, Tripping Icarus.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune file

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In the time it takes for one of his punts to land, Chris Kluwe could paint a miniature soldier, verbally strafe an Internet adversary, play a few notes on his bass and reconsider his decision to wear the number of a star quarterback known for indecision and inappropriate texting.

Kluwe gives new meaning to the phrase "hang time.''

"I find things to do when I'm bored," he said. "As you can see, some of them are a little off-kilter."

The Vikings punter had to be the most popular guy at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School. How many people can hang out with jocks, geeks, science-fiction nerds, musicians, artists and intellectuals without snapping a synapse or pulling a hamstring?

He's a Monty Python character who can kick a hole in the ozone layer.

While his teammates slept or drank beer at training camp, Kluwe wrote songs, played his acoustic guitar, acted as manager for his band, played the video game "World of Warcraft" and painted soldiers for the game "War Machine."

"'War Machine' is a full-time hobby," he said. "It's a tabletop strategy game, like a cross between 'Risk' and chess.

"You get the miniatures, they're pewter, then you have to assemble and paint them, and use them in your army."

Like we didn't know that.

"He's been a character all along," Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said. "He's just getting more attention for it nowadays. I think Twitter gets him into trouble, and painting miniatures is a way of staying out of trouble."

For Kluwe, the Internet is like fire. Uncontrolled, it can be destructive. Controlled, it's really useful in a flamethrower.

Kluwe, via Twitter, criticized such NFL players as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who were rumored to be trying to settle their own side deals as the NFL Players Association negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement. Nate Jackson, a former tight end for the Denver Broncos, questioned whether a punter's opinion should count.

Kluwe then profanely eviscerated Jackson in a post for deadspin.com.

"That was fun," Kluwe said. "What he didn't know is that for my first three years here, my prime way of occupying my time was trolling on the World of Warcraft realm forums, and that's a very vicious literary place. So I had lots of practice at crafting insults."

Kluwe would be a Renaissance man, if only the Middle Ages had good wireless Internet service.

"When I first saw him punt, I thought he was phenomenally talented," Longwell said. "Then I came over here from Green Bay and realized that football was just a means of supporting all of the other things he wants to do in life.

"I think guys know what you get with Chris, which is a very, very intellectual guy. So if people give him grief, they've got to be ready to take some grief back, because he's a lot smarter than a lot of the guys around here."

Some former Vikings special teamers seemed to spend their playing careers setting up their media careers. I'm not thinking of anyone particular.

Kluwe probably will be too busy to do a morning radio show. He's the bassist and manager of Tripping Icarus, the band that new quarterback Donovan McNabb suddenly seems so taken with.

Kluwe gave his old jersey number, No. 5, to McNabb, but only after demanding that McNabb promise he'll mention the name of Kluwe's band frequently in interviews. And give him an ice cream cone.

Then Kluwe donned Brett Favre's No. 4, meaning he might be cursed with indecision and an inability to shave for the rest of his life.

None of this would seem funny if Kluwe weren't so good at his job. The Vikings named him their special teams MVP last season, and he might be the best punter in team history.

"I like to kid him that there's only one All-Pac-10 punter on the roster, and it's not him," Longwell said.

Yes, it's Longwell, who punted and kicked for Cal.

"Of course," Longwell said, "he reminds me that there's only one guy on this roster who's kicked a 60-yard field goal in a game. And, of course, it was him, in high school."

Back then, Kluwe had no idea he'd have a long NFL career. Of course, he probably didn't envision himself skewering Nate Jackson during a lockout.

"I kick the ball well enough that I'll have a job for a while, Kluwe said. "But old age happens eventually, and I'll have to find something else to do."

The mind reels.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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