When most people hear the name Jerry Kramer, most probably think of the classic block that he made in the 1967 NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Better known as the "Ice Bowl."
Here was the scenario.
The Packers had to drive 68 yards with only 4:50 remaining, trailing 17-14. The playing surface that day truly was a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.
It came down to this—13 seconds to go, no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Dallas Cowboys. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short, the game is over.
Quarterback Bart Starr decided to go with a quarterback sneak to try to win the game.
Starr ran behind a perfect double-team block on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh by center Ken Bowman and the right guard Kramer. Kramer was the one who had to fire out first on that block and get leverage on Pugh, and he did.
The ironic part of that play was that Starr called a 31 wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback (Chuck Mercein) to get the ball. Starr, however, felt it was safer that he keep the ball because he could get better footing.
Kramer definitely got great footing, and Starr happily followed his right guard into NFL immortality.
“I understood my responsibility,” said Kramer. “If I don’t get a great block, we don’t do it. I understood perfectly. On a block, you can get cute, duck your head and aim for the shoulder. Or, if you can’t afford to gamble, you go into the guy with your head up and your eyes open and hit him with your face.”
But before the "Ice Bowl", Kramer had another stellar performance in the 1962 NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium in New York.
That game would be the third consecutive NFL title game the Packers had played in under Vince Lombardi. Kramer had only played in the 1960 NFL title game in Philadelphia, a game in which the Packers lost 17-13, despite outgaining Eagles by a wide margin.
That would be the only postseason game the Packers under Lombardi would ever lose.
The Packers defeated the Giants 37-0 in the 1961 NFL championship game in Green Bay, but Kramer did not play in that game due to a broken ankle.
The '62 NFL title game figured to be a much tougher test against the Giants, who wanted to show their fans in New York that the game the year before was an aberration.
Kramer definitely soaked in the fantastic history of Yankee Stadium before the game began.
"Yankee Stadium was an awesome experience," Kramer said. "Especially for a kid from Idaho. Just to walk into that place where you had heard fights broadcast from, where so many World Series games were played, plus to see all the statues out in center field of Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio. The experience was just awesome."
Yankee Stadium was also a homecoming for Lombardi, as he was a New York City native and was an assistant coach for the Giants from 1954-1958.
"We knew how badly coach Lombardi wanted to win that ball game," Kramer said. "And we knew the Giants had been embarrassed the year before in Green Bay. We knew the Giants were going to be loaded for bear that day. But we also knew coach Lombardi desperately wanted a victory, and so we wanted to win for him and much as ourselves."
Besides playing right guard for the Packers that day, Kramer was also the placekicker for the Packers as well, after Hornung hurt his knee early in the 1962 season. Kramer had been Horning's backup at kicker since his rookie year in 1958.
"It was common for players in my era to try and play two positions. It made you more valuable and less likely to be released, " Kramer said. "I was a kicker in college and almost kicked in the College All-Star game before I hurt my knee. Paul got hurt about three or four games into the season with a knee injury, so I moved into his kicking spot and took over those duties."
The weather would not be an ally for Kramer that day while he was kicking, as the wind was gusting at up to 50 miles per hour at times. The temperature was 13 degrees, but it seemed much colder due to the wind.
Were the conditions at the '62 NFL title game comparable to the "Ice Bowl?"
"You know, they were very similar, " Kramer said. "Vince Lombardi Jr. and I were talking about it years later, and Vince Jr. thought the Giants game was colder than the "Ice Bowl." Vince Jr. was at both games, too. It was just a bitter cold day. The wind was sharp and biting."
The conditions didn't bother Kramer, though. "I grew up in the cold in Northern Idaho, just south of the Canadian border, " Kramer said. "I know how to prepare for the cold. I put on thermal underwear and cut the arms off at the elbow and cut the legs off at the knees. Put at dickey around my neck. So I was ready. And once you are ready for it, you have to forget about and get it the hell out of your mind."
The windy conditions at the game made it difficult to throw the football, as well as trying to kick it. Starr was only 9-of-21 passing the ball for only 85 yards. Starr did not throw for a TD, but he didn't throw an interception, either.
Quarterback Y.A. Tittle of the Giants completed 18 of 41 passes for 197 yards, but did not throw a TD pass, and unlike Starr, he did throw a key interception.
The game was mostly going to be won via the ground game and because of turnovers. The Packers rushed for 148 yards in the game, with fullback Jim Taylor getting 85 of those yards. Taylor also scored the only touchdown of the game for the Packers.
Taylor and middle linebacker Sam Huff of the Giants brawled all game long. Huff made it a personal mission to stop Taylor, and he hit the bruising fullback after the whistle a number of times in the game. Talking about that confrontation, Kramer said, "Huff probably would have gotten arrested for assaulting Taylor today."
The Giants rushed for only 94 yards in the game. The Giants also had the only three turnovers of the game. One was an interception by linebacker Dan Currie, and the other two were fumble recoveries by middle linebacker Ray Nitschke.
The Packers did fumble twice themselves, but in both cases the Packers recovered. The first was a fumble by Taylor. Guess who recovered the fumble for the Packers? Jerry Kramer.
Kramer had a nice day blocking. "I felt like I played a good solid football game," Kramer said. My opponent (left defensive tackle) Dick Modzelewski was an experienced player, but he wasn't physically overwhelming. He didn't have the great quickness some had, nor the great physical strength some had, but he was a just a very solid player. Anyway, I felt like a played a good game against him that day."
Besides blocking that day, Kramer had to kick as well. Kramer was almost caught up in the huge importance of the game, especially when he was about to kick his first field goal.
"Early in the game I had a moment of doubt, " Kramer said. "I looked across the field at Huff, Robustelli, Katcavage, Greer and that group, and I thought to myself, 'What in the hell are you doing out here?' So I was a bit nervous, but I kept my head down and went through my fundamentals and I made the kick."
Kramer was three for five in field goals that windy day. "The wind was circling in the stadium that day," Kramer said. "When I made my last field goal, I aimed maybe eight to 10 yards outside the goal posts. The wind ended up bringing my kick into the center of the goal posts. It was one of the very few times I had to play the wind that way."
Kramer scored 10 of the 16 points the Packers scored vs. the Giants. When he made that last field goal, the Packers now had a nine-point lead late in the game.
"It was a hell of a moment," Kramer reflected. "It put the game out of reach, as they would have to score twice to beat us. It was probably the most excited I had ever been in a contest, and the guys were pounding me on the back. I experienced a Bart Starr-like moment, of having everyone applaud me and congratulate me."
Yes—the Packers won 16-7 that day at Yankee Stadium. Taylor had a big day running the football, and Nitschke was named MVP of the game for his two fumble recoveries and because he deflected a pass that was intercepted by Currie.
But Kramer had a big day as well. In fact, Kramer received the game ball from his team for his efforts.
"It was a huge moment and a wonderful experience," Kramer said. "The big thing was they you were able to come through. You met the test and were able to get the job done. And also not let the team down."
The 1962 NFL title game and his play in the 1967 NFL championship game (the "Ice Bowl") are just two examples of Kramer passing the test with flying colors on the biggest stage of the sport. That is why it is so ridiculous that Kramer is still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hopefully one day soon, the Hall of Fame will see the errors of their ways and finally induct Kramer into the Hall and his rightful place in Canton, Ohio.
That is another game ball Kramer deserves.
Bob Fox is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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