B/R's Project 99: The Man Who Led The Packer Sweep, #64 Jerry Kramer
Choosing the best player to wear the uniform number 64 was an easy task. There are no dilemmas as you might have with the number 8 (Aikman, Young or Ripken?) or with the number 32 (Brown, Simpson or Koufax?).
The number 64 by its nature does not lend itself well to glory. It would be an illegal uniform number in most levels of competitive basketball except the NBA.
If a baseball player is wearing it (and they are playing for someone other than the Yankees) it's usually by someone 'under evaluation', which in English means they are headed for the minors once the season starts.
The only noteworthy hockey players to wear a uniform number in the vicinity of the number 64 were Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr and even then, they chose instead to wear uniform numbers 66 and 68, respectively.
In fact, the only professional athletes that wear the number 64 on a consistent basis in professional sports are football's interior offensive linemen.
Offensive linemen as a group don't get a lot of attention for what they do. Their task in one sentence is to open holes for running backs and protect their quarterbacks on pass plays. It's a task that is not easily quantified or that generates interest in fantasy football leagues, as rushing yardage or touchdowns scored do.
When offensive linemen get attention, it's usually because something negative happened: either they missed a block or committed a penalty. Anonymity is a goal that many of these players strive for.
It is a rare occasion when an offensive lineman gets much positive attention. What's even more rare is when one helps to define a chapter in football history.
Few teams defined an era of football as the Green Bay Packer teams of the 1960s did, winning three NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowls. One of the team's most memorable players was none other than the one who wore number 64, Jerry Kramer.
It was Kramer's play at guard that helped make the so-called Packer Sweep a success. So many pictures show him 'pulling' from his initial position on the line to make the lead block for either Jim Taylor or Paul Hornung. The play required guards to have some agility and mobility, in defiance to the stereotype of that position.
A frequent excerpt from NFL Films shows legendary coach Vince Lombardi describing the play while diagramming it on a chalkboard: "If you look at this play, what we're trying to get is a seal here and a seal here and to try to run this play in the alley."
Kramer's efforts sealed off defenders, helping to make the Sweep so successful. It was only fitting that a play that glorified an offensive lineman came from the mind of someone who once played the position himself.
In the 1930s, Lombardi was one of the famed Seven Blocks of Granite on Fordham University's teams from that era. The line's fame was well deserved as it included another Pro Football Hall of Famer, Alex Wojciechowicz and a College Hall of Famer, Ed Franco.
Kramer's collegiate career was equally impressive. While playing for the Vandals at the University of Idaho, he was a Second Team All Pacific Coast Conference choice in 1956 and earned All-American honors in 1957. His uniform number, 64, has been retired by the school.
Unfortunately for Kramer, he hasn't earned the honors on the professional level that he has collegiately. In spite of being named to the NFL's 50th Anniversary Team, he has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
How the powers that be saw fit to give him the first honor but not the second is beyond me. It's high time that those powers wake up, smell the Starbucks and give this man his rightful place in Canton.
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