EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 15, 2006

Go Patriots: Salem, N.H., kicker out to make Pats China's team

FOXBORO - The Dallas Cowboys can have America. The New England Patriots have set their sights on a much bigger landscape - China.

And they've chosen Salem, N.H., native Nicholas Krippendorf to get the mighty job of attracting nearly two billion prospective fans and lucrative business opportunities done.

It was no coincidence last month when the Patriots announced they were going to play the NFL's first exhibition game in Beijing next August.

Krippendorf, the Central Catholic and Brown University graduate, was brought on board about a month earlier, setting the table for the announcement and prepping for the future.

Team President Jonathan Kraft and the Patriots organization are banking on Krippendorf big time.

In his position as director of Chinese business development, Krippendorf's two true loves have merged.

For the lifelong New Englander, football and the New England Patriots have always owned a special place.

But when a back injury ended his football days in college, Krippendorf searched for something else and found China.

"I hurt my back at Northeastern (before transferring to Brown). I couldn't play ball and couldn't run track," said Krippendorf, now 30. "I was really upset. My life as I had known it had come to an end.

"At that time, football was most important in my life. I had to almost start my life over again. I had to go some place different and new. I had a lot of questions about China that nobody knew the answers to. I didn't know a word of Chinese, didn't know anyone, just went over with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket."

A post-graduation jaunt transformed into a passion.

"I originally planned to stay a year and ended up staying almost five," he said.

"My one real goal was to learn how to speak, read and write to a level where I could use it to understand the culture and people. I thought I could do it in one year, but it was more than that. During that time, I got a lot more out of China than I thought I would. I met great people and learned a lot about culture and history."

Unfortunately, Krippendorf's hiatus coincided with the greatest run in Patriots history.

Three Super Bowls in five years and "I barely caught parts of them, and I'm not sure what was live," he said.

Two years later, Krippendorf is the point man in a league-wide crusade to change all that.

His position remains unique, just like the team's Chinese Web site, one of a kind.

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