Jerry Kramer: The Strongest Endorsement Yet for the Pro Football Hall of Fame
As many of you know, I've written many stories about Jerry Kramer. Jerry had a fabulous career in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, and his list of awards and accomplishments is long. Yet, even with a sparkling résumé, No. 64 is still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When the NFL put out the 50th Anniversary team, Kramer was one of the members of that team. Jerry is the ONLY member of that squad not in Canton.
Kramer was First-Team All-Pro five times and played in three Pro Bowls. More importantly, Kramer played on five teams which won NFL titles, including three straight from 1965-67. That is a mark that no team in NFL history has been able to repeat in the playoff era.
The 1966 and 1967 teams also won the first two Super Bowls. Kramer played for a coach in Green Bay named Vince Lombardi. All you need to know about Lombardi's prowess as a coach in the NFL is the fact his name is on the Super Bowl Trophy.
The signature play of those Lombardi teams was the power sweep. Kramer helped make that play a staple of the Green Bay offense. Nobody could pull and get out to meet defenders at the next level better than Kramer did as right guard of the Packers.
The Packers had a dominant rushing attack from 1960-64, finishing first or second in the NFL during that five-year period.
Lombardi's teams in Green Bay won five NFL titles in seven years and were 9-1 in the postseason. Kramer was a major factor in the success of those teams in the playoffs.
The 1962 NFL Championship Game was played at frigid and blustery Yankee Stadium versus the New York Giants. Some Packers have said it was worse than the conditions of the “Ice Bowl” because of the high winds that were gusting up to 40 mph. The Packers won that game 16-7, which at times resembled a barroom brawl. The difference in that game were three field goals. The three field goals were kicked by Kramer, who doubled as a right guard and a kicker that cold and gusty day.
Kramer received a game ball from the team after the game.
In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his fellow offensive linemen had a big day. Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung combined for over 200 yards rushing that day.
One play really illustrated how good Kramer was in that game. It was Hornung's last championship game touchdown of his career. Kramer pulled to the left on a power sweep and first blocked a linebacker, and then went outside to block a defensive back.
The result? A 13-yard trip to the end zone for the "Golden Boy", as the Packers beat the Browns 23-12.
Then there was the 1967 NFL Championship Game versus the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field in brutal, arctic-like conditions. The game time temperature was 13 degrees below zero.
The game came down to one drive, and then one play. The Packers had to drive 68 yards with just 4:50 remaining in the game, as the Cowboys led the Pack 17-14. The Packers had to literally cross a field made of ice to try and tie or win the game.
It came down to this: 13 seconds to go, with no timeouts, at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short, the game is over.
Quarterback Bart Starr decided to keep the ball himself on the next play and used a great block by Kramer to squeeze into the end zone as the Packers won 21-17.
Current members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame know that Jerry should be in Canton with them. Kramer has been endorsed by the likes of Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.
All of these Hall of Famers were Kramer's contemporaries.
Randy Simon put together a great book about the Hall of Fame testimonials for Kramer last year, which was sent to the Seniors Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Even with all that, Jerry was not nominated by the Seniors Committee in 2012.
But thanks to Alicia Kramer, Jerry's daughter, we now have maybe the strongest endorsement Jerry has ever received. Alicia found a letter from Merlin Olsen, who wrote to the Hall of Fame on Jerry's behalf about 20 years ago.
Alicia had not been able to find the letter until recently. It is a HUGE find. Why? Olsen is considered to be the best defensive tackle of all time by many people. Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, which is the all-time NFL record shared by Bruce Matthews, the uncle of Clay Matthews of the Packers.
Olsen was named First-Team All-Pro five times in his career, plus was named Second-Team All-Pro four more times.
Jerry and Merlin played against each other on numerous occasions, while Olsen was with the Los Angeles Rams. There was a mutual respect between Kramer and Olsen, as evidenced by Olsen's letter to the Hall of Fame.
When dozens of members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame speak out on Kramer's behalf, especially one of Olsen's ilk, I think it's quite apparent that No. 64 belongs in Canton.
I had an opportunity to talk with Kramer about a number of things recently, and this is what he said about not being named yet to the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
I'm in my 77th year. In the last couple of years, I've been included in the Top Ten Packers of All-Time, as well as the All-Century Packers team, and the point is that they are still giving me applause and accolades at this late point in my life. Then I looked at a poster I have regarding the NFL's 50th Anniversary All-Time team, and I see my name included with the likes of Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, Don Hutson and other legends and giants of the game. Just to be associated with those guys is tall cotton for a kid from Idaho. I can't expect more than that. The game has been good to me. It's been exceptionally good to me, and I appreciate it. You get so many moments of applause and recognition, and you are going to get pissed because you didn't get one (Pro Football Hall of Fame)? That just doesn't make any sense to me.
I applaud Jerry's attitude regarding not being in the Hall of Fame, but it's still something he truly merits.
Between the endorsements and the career accomplishments of Kramer, we can only hope that the Seniors Committee will nominate Jerry this August for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
It's a honor that Kramer richly deserves.
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