Photo: Adam Biggers (2010) An oil painting of one of Michigan's career greats, Ron Kramer
A couple years back while writing for The Flint Journal, I met a man named Steve Kroflich, an Ohio State graduate and best friend of the late, great Ron Kramer.
Kramer, who died Sept. 11, 2010 of heart complications, epitomized Michigan football in the late 1950s. Arguably the greatest athlete to ever play at Michigan, Kramer excelled at basketball and lettered in three sports.
He was drafted with the fourth pick of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, but he could have played in the NBA; he was just that athletically-gifted.
While researching Kramer's legacy, I met with members of his former golf club in Tyrone, Twp., Mich. Not one man immediately brought up Kramer's exploits on the field. No, they were too busy telling stories of his generosity and caring nature.
The life of the crowd, the man everyone wanted to talk to and share a brew with -- that was Kramer. But he didn't always rub people the right way at first glance.
That was Kramer, though.
“When I first met him, I wanted to fight him,” Kroflich told me in 2010. “We weren’t friends, OK? We were family. I had keys to his house and car, he had keys to mine. We didn’t knock, we just walked in. Whatever he had, I was welcome to. It went both ways. It had nothing to do with athletics.”
Why did Kroflich want to fight Kramer? Well, a chance meeting at Kroflich's mailbox on a dirt road outside of Fenton, Mich. turned into a somewhat awkward but life-changing exchange. The two were inseparable after that.
And Kramer had a certain talent of getting under Kroflich's skin, a back-and-forth, Buckeyes-Wolverines flag-swapping fiasco that went on each football season.
My appreciation for Kramer grew after learning about his role as the "Apple Man" at Michigan. The former Wolverines star delivered fresh fruit to practice because he loved his team. He bled Maize and Blue, and seeing the youngsters achieve their goals gave him an immense sense of pride.
Kramer is a man that I wish I could have met. Kroflich, a proud Buckeyes alum, was kind enough to invite me into his home and even introduced me to his wife prior to our initial interview. He later invited me back for a second feature and gave me a card signed by Kramer.
I got a real sense of just how close Kramer and Kroflich were. Their relationship was less about sports and more about sharing a brotherly bond.
I highly encourage you to read my two Journal features on Kramer. You might find out something about the legend that you didn't know.
Gone but not forgotten (me)
Kramer and Kroflich, Ohio State versus Michigan (me)
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